6 Things You Should Never Do in Paris

See recent posts by Margot Bigg

Visiting Paris can be daunting for faux-pas-conscious travelers, particularly as Parisians have a reputation for being quick to judge foreigners who don't follow local conventions of dress and behavior. While this reputation might be a bit extreme, there are a few rookie mistakes to avoid in Paris. Here are six of them.

1. Avoid splurging on a fancy dinner.

It’s easy to eat cheap in Paris, with bakeries and sandwich shops selling fantastic food at budget prices on nearly every block. Plus, plenty of travelers looking to keep their expenses down opt to go the cheese-and-baguette route for most meals. However, the city is full of fine-dining spots and sitting down for an elegant, multiple-course meal is a quintessentially Parisian experience that’s well worth a hefty credit card charge, even if you just do it once. 

2. Rely too much on the metro.

Paris has an awesome metro system, and many travelers purchase a travel card and then spend most of their time underground. While the Paris Metro is certainly a simple way to get around town quickly, it’s also worth taking some trips by bus, taxi, or, best of all, on foot. Paris is easy to navigate and walking allows you to slow down and perhaps even discover some interesting sights, shops, and restaurants that you might not otherwise see if you take a train from point A to B.

3. Wear uncomfortable shoes.

Whether or not you decide to rely on your own two feet instead of the metro, comfortable shoes in Paris are a must. Many travelers will want to show off a chic look, at the expense of their feet, but it’s not worth the pain. There’s no shortage of attractive, stylish shoes on the market that are suitable for walking. So get comfortable before you hit the cobblestone streets — your feet will thank you. 

4. Forget to greet shopkeepers.

When entering a shop or place of business in France, you’re expected to say hello. Many travelers are unaware of this unspoken rule, much to the dismay of locals. When you walk into a shop, say “bonjour” or “bonsoir” (if it’s late afternoon or evening). And remember to say thank you and goodbye before you leave. If you’re not sure if the person you’re interacting with speaks English, a simple “merci, au revoir” should do the trick.

5. Expect to get away with just English.

To be frank, the French struggle with English, especially compared to many of their continental neighbors. While you can easily get away with firing off words in English in places like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, or Berlin, Parisians will expect you to at least try to communicate in French. At the very least, learn how to ask people if they speak English, and, if they don’t, be prepared to whip out a translation app (or a phrase book, if you’re old fashioned). 

6. Skip the supermarkets.

Food items make for some of the best Parisian souvenirs, and while most of the city’s big famous department stores have food halls selling all sorts of gourmet goods, the best treats can often be found at local supermarkets — and for cheap! Health food lovers might want to check out the delights on offer at organic food chains like Naturalia, while everyone should stop by bigger supermarkets such as Monoprix. French supermarkets are full of chocolates, cosmetics, and spice blends — not to mention large sections offering wine, spirits, and even fine Champagnes. 

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