Paris attracts millions of tourists every year for its world-class museums, charming streets and buildings, and incredible food.
Like any other city though, Paris has its customs.
We took at a look at a Quora thread that asked the question “what are some cultural faux pas in Paris?”
Here are 7 things travellers should avoid doing in Paris.
1. Don’t expect to eat your food on the go.
While “to go” does exist in the French language — à emporter — it doesn’t have the same connotation as it does in other countries. The French don’t like the idea of eating their food while doing something else, according to Quora user Yoav Perry.
“They seldom treat it as mindless refuelling while doing other mundane tasks such as work or while walking down the street or driving. ‘To go’ food is taken away from a restaurant or café to be consumed while seating down on a park bench, at home, etc.”
Perry also warns against bringing food or beverages inside any kind of business establishment; it’s considered rude.
2. Don’t forget to use your knife while eating.
Perry points out that Americans have a tendency to either eat with their hands or to use only their fork to cut and pick up their food. In Paris — and throughout France — this is considered poor table manners. Here’s how Perry says meals should be eaten in France.
“The knife is held throughout the dinner in the right hand and is used exclusively as a cutting tool and to load loose food onto the fork. The fork is in the left hand and is not used to cut food, stir it, or chase it around the plate, nor it it used to be fully loaded by jabbing as much food as possible on it with repeated stabbings.”
3. Don’t smile unless you mean it.
People from other cultures often view the French as unfriendly. But according to Perry, the French simply don’t use fake gestures, such as smiles, to make a situation less awkward or uncomfortable. So they don’t respond well when foreigners do.
“To the French a fake smile seems down right idiotic and disingenuous,” Perry said. “You do not use a smile as a conversation starter unless there is truly something to smile about.”
4. Don’t assume that all French speak proficient English.
Perry says that the French take great pride in their language. Therefore, they have very strong feelings about how foreigners speaking it.
“You will be forgiven for not being able to speak it, but speaking it incorrectly is not kindly tolerated. To a Frenchman you sound like Luciano Pavarotti attempting to carry a Lady Gaga song. The best practice? Eat a big portion of humble pie and apologise repeatedly.”
If you speak some French, Perry recommends speaking it, but apologizing for butchering the language. If you don’t speak French, first ask if the person you’re talking to speaks French and then apologise for making them speak English.
5. Don’t forget to say bonjour when you walk into a store.
According to Quora user Yves Granger, it’s expected in Paris that when you walk into a store, you greet the shopkeeper. And since you’re in France, say bonjour and not hello.
6. Ask before taking pictures in a store.
Besides expecting visitors to say bonjour, shopkeepers also expect visitors to ask permission before snapping iPhone photos in their store. Granger says that the French generally resent when visitors are on their phones while in a store.
7. Don’t speak loudly in the Metro.
Although the Metro — Paris’ subway system — is a public place, Quora user John Li says it stays pretty quiet, which means that being loud will only get you dirty looks from locals and draw attention to the fact that you’re a foreigner, making you a possible target for pickpockets.
“The Metro in Paris is almost always dead silent,” Li said. “Everyone minds their own business or whispers when in groups.”
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