Paris, France. The City of Lights. Called the most romantic city by millions. But, let’s first address the “rude” French people; after all, that is what many of us hear. I want to let you all know that while I was in Paris, I did not meet any rude French people. Everyone I spoke to, passed on the street, or had any bit of conversation with was perfectly polite and most were very nice.
If you would like to have a great time in France, it is easy to do so. Firstly, don’t assume that everyone speaks English. It is okay if you do not speak French, because many people do speak English, but it is rude to just assume that anyone you walk up to will speak your language. It is polite to at least attempt the language of the country you are visiting.
In my experience, as soon as “bonjour” or “bonsoir” tumbled out of my mouth, the person I was speaking to usually said, “hello!” and began speaking English to me – thankfully, because I only retain a few phrases that I generally forget after a while.
Cultures are always different and it is good to learn some basics before you go; here is something fairly basic to know – the French consider it very rude to sniff, they would prefer that you blow your nose quickly, even in public, rather than to sniff around them.
When eating at a cafe in France, you will be served as everyone else is being served…which is slowly and usually there is not a lot of coming back to your table. This should not be considered rudeness because you are American; this is just how they do things – with everyone. Remember while a tip of a euro or two may happen, they are not expected to supplement their income with tips like we do in the US.
When you see service compris on your bill, it is usually a 15% service charge that the servers will probably not see; so in the event that you are wanting to tip, 5% of the bill is sufficient. However, you are not mandated to pay more if you have already paid the 15%.
Most encounters with rudeness will really happen in the subway. Remember, we may be on vacation, but they are still working and living their daily lives. We can be difficult to deal with when we stand in the wrong places or don’t get out of the way. In the subway stations you want to stay on the right side and keep moving – this will be the best way to avoid annoying Parisians.
There are so many things to do and see in Paris. To begin with, the Eiffel Tower – practically synonymous with Paris, which is funny considering that it was supposed to be temporary for the 1889 world’s fair; at which time it was the tallest structure in the world. Once considered an eyesore by any Parisians, it is now an iconic structure that is the home of many travel selfies. (I chose to spare you my own Eiffel selfies – your welcome).
For art lovers, the Louvre is a must! It is one of my favorite places in Paris. It is the world’s largest museum and a central landmark of Paris. It houses paintings, drawings, sculptures and archaeological finds. It is the home of Mona Lisa. The Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art from all over Europe.
Not far from the Louvre you will find the River Seine, Notre Dame and Shakespeare’s & Company Book Store.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is a site that has historically been a religious. It is the place where Celts had sacred ground, and later held a Roman temple. Before Notre Dame, it was a Christian basilica built in the 16th century. Now it is one of the most famous medieval Catholic cathedrals with an architectural style of French Gothic.
The “Bridge of Locks” was close by as well, but it has since been done away with. Actually, they tried this a couple of times – cutting down the padlocks people would leave locked on the fence, but tourists kept up the tradition. Parisians felt that all of the locks hanging on the bridge looked horrible and many worried for the bridge itself as it was holding so much more weight due to all the locks. The government has since had the bars removed from the bridge and replaced it with Plexiglas so people will stop hanging locks on the bridge. I admit that I was one of those horrible tourists – but now I would suggest to you that you do not attempt to hang locks as it will only anger people.
For writers, poets and all fans of literature you must stop by the most famous independent bookstore in the world! Just a short walk from Notre Dame is Shakespeare and company’s bookstore; an early 17th century building housing books in many languages (English included!). The store, indeed, has been a place for struggling artists of all varieties. George Whitman left a painted message on the front boards about his daughter, Sylvia, taking over the store which you can still read today. If you are lucky someone will sit at the piano upstairs and start playing.
Champs Elysees is considered one of the most beautiful avenues in the world. The Arc de Triomphe stands as a monument to honor the Grande Armee and carries the names of the nation as well as the unknown solider who is honored by a flame lit every evening.
This is also the place to shop if you like Louis Vuitton, H&M, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Levi’s, Marks & Spencer and the list goes on…and on. You will also find fine dining options such as Le Cinq, Pierre Gagnaire, Alleno Paris, Chez Gabrielle and L’Oiseau Blanc Restaurant – which has great views while you eat, especially at night.
The Sacre-Coeur or Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a popular landmark located in the highest point of the city. It is a Roman Catholic church that houses a huge pipe organ and the top dome is open to tourists for an amazing view of Paris. Just standing outside you can see a similar view.
Musee d’Orsay was originally a railway station called Gare d’Orsay and during WWII it was used as a mailing center. Now an impressive art museum it holds mainly French art dating from the mid – 1800s to 1914; including paintings, sculptures and photography. It boasts the largest collection of impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin.
In summary of polite behaviors, tip if you want to – but not more than 5%, don’t hang locks anywhere, stay out of the way in the subway, don’t assume everyone will speak English because they won’t and try to speak French so they know you aren’t just assuming. Oh, I didn’t mention it before, but the French do find sniffles and yawning rude. So blow your nose (they don’t mind this as long as it means no sniffles) and turn away and cover your mouth if you yawn, but don’t worry about being prompt – apparently that is not considered rude. Now that I think about it, I may have to go back to Paris more often.
Paris is a beautiful city that offers a lot. You may decide to take tours, to venture outside of Paris to Versailles (which you can do by metro), you may walk or hop on and off buses. There is always something to see and experience. When I was there I saw a bride and groom all over the city because it is a custom in France to walk from the legal ceremony to the religious ceremony – at least that was what I was told.
For the nightclub/dancing crowd you have to check out the club, Showcase, it is found under the bridge! Pont Alexandre III, Port des Champs-Élysées with live bands and great DJs.
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