Parisians have acquired a less-than-flattering reputation for being unforgiving with tourists who don't know at least a few basic French words and expressions. It would be dishonest of me to say this doesn't hold a grain of truth. While younger generations, exposed to English from a young age and acclimated to the effects of globalization, tend to be more than willing to demonstrate their English-speaking skills, many Parisians consider it impolite when tourists don't at least attempt to begin an exchange in the Gallic tongue. That's why I highly advise that you learn a few basic French expressions before visiting Paris-- most locals will appreciate even small efforts to use their language, if only to exchange niceties. Don't worry about being fluent, though: Paris is the world's most-visited city, so very few people will hold it against you if you can't manage more than simple exchanges in French.
Especially when interacting with French natives who are several years your senior, make sure to address them with the proper titles: Madame for women and Monsieur for men. Younger people rarely care about such formalities, on the other hand, and may find it strange if you address them this way.
Essential French Words and Expressions
- Hello, Madam/Sir (Good Day): Bonjour, (Madame, Monsieur). (Bohn-zhour), (Ma-Dahm, Muh-syeuh)
- Good evening: Bonsoir, (Madame, Monsieur). (Bohn swah, " ")
- Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous anglais? (Pahr-lay voo ahn-glay?)
- Excuse me, Madam/Sir?: Excusez-moi (Madame, Monsieur)? (Ex-kewzay mwah, " "?)
- Thank you very much: Merci beaucoup. (Mehr-si bo-kou)
- Good bye: Au revoir! (Oh-ruh vwah!)