Everyone has an idea of Paris in their heads: beautiful, stylish model-esque people in striped shirts, walking their poodles. Folks riding around on bicycles with fresh baguettes in their bags. Rude waiters who get annoyed if you don’t speak to them in French. There are a lot of stereotypes about the French!
After our August trip to France, I’ve realized something. A LOT of the stereotypes are true! However, there are quite a few surprising things you’ll experience while in the City of Lights.
1. Slow/Rude Waiters
You will spend much of your time in Paris at restaurants. The pace of life is just slower there and they like to take their time, especially at dinner. At American restaurants, you’ll have a server at your table every 10 minutes checking on you, asking how your meal is, dropping the check off. In Paris, the server will greet you and if you want anything from them, you’ll need to overcome the feeling that you’re being rude and wave them down. Once you get used to it, you’ll realize they’re not rude, they just get paid enough that they don’t have to kiss your ass to earn your tip.
2. Stuck Up Frenchmen
Because I was already in the middle of learning Spanish, I gave Tanner the task of learning the basic phrases that we would need to get by while in France. Since he was in the middle of completing his Master’s degree, heeeeee didn’t have time to learn any French. So, we relied on my very vague memories of my high school French class. In our 8 days there, we only spoke to one person who didn’t understand English, and even then, we were able to find a way to understand each other. No one gave us the stink eye or spit in our drinks after we fumbled the most basic of French phrases. It was fine, guys!
I wouldn’t recommend going in completely ignorant. Here are some basic words and phrases in French that you should know:
- Bonjour! – An obvious one, it means hello or literally, “good day.” Every time you walk into a store or shop, greet the owner! It’s polite.
- Au revoir! – Likewise, saying goodbye is polite, too.
- Parlez-vous anglais? – “Do you speak English?” This at least gives the impression that you were going to attempt to speak French for a moment. Hopefully, they’ll throw you a rope and say, “Oui.”
- Je ne parle pas francais. – “I don’t speak French.” This could stop someone from launching into a full conversation with you as you stare blankly.
- Merci. – “THANK YOU.” A server brings you your meal, you purchase something at a shop, someone holds the door for you, say, “thank you.” It’s just common courtesy, my dudes.
- Pardon. – Excuse me or pardon, for when you bump into someone.
- L’addition, s’il vous plait. – Like I said, the waiter isn’t just going to bring you the check. You have to ask for it. Be sure to say, “please,” too.
3. Unbelievable Style
EVERYONE LOOKS SO DAMN GOOD. The kids, the men, the ladies, they all looked spectacular. The worst dressed men in Paris were still dressed better than the best dressed men in the States ad don’t even get me started on the women. Every single woman we saw was impeccably dressed. Athleisure might be a big trend in the United States right now, but a French woman would not be caught DEAD in workout gear outside the gym. We should all aspire to be even a fraction as fashionable as the French.
4. Baguettes, y’all
I don’t know what else to say about this except it’s true. Everyone goes to their local supermarket in the evening to grab a baguette for dinner. I don’t know how they’re all so skinny with all those carbs they consume. But we had to fit in, so we had at least a baguette per day. C’est la vie française, ma cherie.
Paris is utterly magical and you’d be doing yourself a favor by visiting. Just don’t go in with the American attitude that French people are rude/stinky/American haters. You’ll be golden. Or as the French would say, “Tu es doré.“