Paris is a city with a distinct culture that has been well-preserved. The way of life is frequently depicted in TV and film, but often still misses the smaller intricacies of day-to-day life. To help you figure out how to travel like a local, we’ve put together the do’s and don’ts for Parisian travel by incorporating some of the customs that are often overlooked by travelers.
Do use as much French language as possible when speaking to a Parisian
While Parisian locals will take it in good grace that not everyone can speak the language, it is important to try and use as much of the language as possible in your interactions. Even if you have to ask someone a question you can only frame in English, try and start of with a quick “bonjour” and ask how they are doing in French before you go on to ask if they speak English. It will show a politeness on your part that will be appreciated. Google translate can also work wonders if you are at a shop or eatery and need help with a phrase.
Don’t expect to find carry-out or a doggy bag at all restaurants
While France has legislation that will soon require restaurants to supply baggies for customers’ leftovers, currently restaurants in Paris will often be unequipped to box your leftovers. Unless you are in a touristy area, don’t expect your leftovers will be coming home with you. Plan your meal and courses accordingly.
Carry-out dining is also not common in Paris. Parisians will typically cook at home, and save dining out for occasions where they want to savor how a restaurant cooks a meal. Meals tend to be leisurely, and therefore the idea of heading to restaurant to take a meal home is a foreign concept. If you are on-the-go, skip restaurants in favor of creperies or bakeries that are set up as counter shops without seating. These will be where you can grab and go.
Do take advantage of their metro and bus system
Paris has planned their city around public transit. Their metro and bus system are both reliable ways to get around the city if you do not plan on taking a taxi, or would like to take in more of the city by foot. You’ll barely have to wait for a train, and many of their metro stops lead right into Paris’s best shopping centers, not to mention spots for sightseeing.
Don’t worry about tipping
While tipping is not a straightforward no-no in Paris, it is still far from common practice. Wages are not distributed like in the U.S. where tipping is how waitstaff usually make the majority of their pay. The general rule of thumb is that it is not a necessity, unless you feel your service was exceptional. Also, if you do feel inclined to tip, know that with family-owned restaurants it will all end up being filtered into the general day’s earnings while in a restaurant that is separately managed, the waiter’s tip ends up staying with him.
Don’t feel the need to pack a different outfit for every day
In Paris, as in most of Europe, wardrobes tend to be much simpler. Clothing is usually paired down to a few classic outfits. This means you shouldn’t feel a need to wear a new outfit for every day of the week. Instead the majority of your packing should focus on basics that mix and match well. Also, for Parisians, a pop of color is nice, but wardrobes usually tend towards primary colors with plenty of black and white. It will be different from packing for a tropical getaway, but if you have packed a few layers and stuck to primary colors and basics that pair together well, you’ll be well on your way to dressing like a local.
Hopefully these do’s and don’ts give you a taste of what it feels like to dress, eat, and traverse the city like Paris’ own city dwellers. With these criteria in mind, you should be well on your way to living life during your stay like a Parisian!