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Courtney Traub

Travel Tips: Avoiding Common Parisian "Faux Pas"

By February 21, 2013

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A good travel guide shouldn't just tell you what to do and see when roaming abroad; it should give clear advice on what not to do. Paris can admittedly be notorious for its long list of tourist "faux pas". A recent Op-Ed in the Financial Times entitled "When a man is tired of Paris" wearily listed all the ways Paris can exhaust you with its rigorous customs, protocol and standards of etiquette and decorum. While I disagree with the author's summarily writing Paris off as "a snooty, unfriendly city"-- I have had too many experiences of genuine warmth and kindness here that simply contradict this opinion--I can concede that Parisian culture places more of an emphasis on formality and decorum than most major metropolises. If you fail to, say, preface your question to a shopkeeper with a "Bonjour, Madame", you might indeed be met with less than friendly service, especially from older generations.

Beyond the question of etiquette, what about avoiding common pitfalls that visitors-- especially first-timers-- often fall into? This can include getting sucked into tourist-trap areas and failing to escape from their gravitational pull, hitting major attractions at the wrong times, or failing to pace yourself by attempting too much at once. I recently wrote here about how not to approach a visit to the gargantuan Louvre museum, and in our guide to Parisian street food, I give plenty of tips on areas to avoid if you want to prevent wasting dollars on sub-par sandwiches or crepes.

My talented cohorts on the Travel Channel at About.com, and led by Susan Breslow Sardone of Honeymoons/Romantic Travel, have teamed up to create a fantastic resource called "Don't Do That!", and featuring dozens of in-depth features on how to avoiding embarrassment, exhaustion, irritation and other unpleasant feelings while traveling. From Australia to India, California and the UK, the guide packs tons of helpful advice on adapting to local culture and customs, as well as tips on places and things to avoid. Bookmark away!

February 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm
(1) Bob Hobson says:

Great tips. I agree that not all Parisians are snooty, though some can seem that way. I would like to add one more tip that saved my last trip to France from total disaster. I lost my passport during the day but had no idea it was missing. Fortunately, I had an Okoban tracer tag on it. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on their website and I was sent a text message (and an email) before I ever even knew my passport was missing. Lucky for me because I was leaving in the morning for Germany and getting a new passport would have been impossible. I found these tags at http://www.mystufflostandfound.com. It saved my trip and I now have tags on almost everything that goes with me on a trip.

February 25, 2013 at 10:54 am
(2) Floyd Robbins says:

On a recent trip to Paris with my wife in October, we found everyone we came into contact with to be polite , friendly and willing to help if they could with directions etc. I do speak a little bit of French and always tried to use it first.
Also, having returned to our hotel one evening after being out all day, I realised that I had left 1000.00 dollars, a credit card, both our passports in the room safe wide open. Nothing was missing, and room service had been in the room that day. I never could meet our maid but left an envelope with her name on it with a nice tip at the front desk.

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