From living in France for a bit, to my continuous travels there, I’ve made a list of things of some do’s some don’t’s and somethings just to pay attention to.
- Keep all your belongings as close to you as possible, and never turn away for a second.
From the moment we left CDG airport and got onto our first train heading to Rouen, there was a tag team of ladies asking for money. I do feel somewhat responsible for this one. I turned to my friend that was sitting behind me, with all my possessions in my grasp, and I asked if she had anything smaller. When she turned to her bag and we found something they were gone…and so was her iPad. Unfortunately, on our way our of France–in Paris again–this same friend put her cell phone in her outside jacket pocket while on a subway station escalator. And we spent the next 40 minutes running after an invisible woman.
Just make sure you’re smart. Make sure everything’s zipped and you constantly have your hand on it. For women, I highly recommend cross body purses. And for men, rubber bands on their items. Or money belts for both.
- Not everyone speaks English–nor should they.
Alright my KEY point. The French are not rude, nor do they hate Americans. To be honest, they love Americans. HOWEVER, It doesn’t hurt to have a pocket dictionary, and to learn some key phrases for visiting. This doesn’t just go for France, this goes for most places. Many people will be much nicer and even understanding if you try some phrases. Remember, this is their country. I’m hesitantly trilingual. English, Spanish, and French. I speak it, I can read it, and I can write it, and I can understand it..doesn’t mean I do it that well. French being my third language, I’m much more hesitant, I need it a little slower, and I don’t have the best accent, let’s be honest, I’m still new at it, and now I barely speak it unless I’m in Europe–I thought maybe someone would know one of these languages. A lot of people you meet may know English, but may speak it poorly, or not used to speaking it, so they’re hesitant–but in the end, their Country.
- Also, not everyone speaks Spanish.
Ehem.. this goes out to one of my friends who made traveling in France quite hilarious. “Lo siento, pero no puedo.” Instead of saying the French version of “Leave me alone.” As well as my mother, who was convinced EVERYONE spoke Spanish. Actually, she had difficulties between Gracias and Merci. However, she did practice her French as well, and asked how to say things as well, and some of the people were more than happy to help her.
- Be careful who you smile it while passing by
In some cultures and places, like the US, this is a warm, nice gesture. In France, it means you want something from them. From a woman to a man and vice versa it may mean you want to be a little friendlier than you are…be careful. I’ve seen a woman mace a man once.
- Professional Homeless
While yes, there are many homeless people you will see. Especially around tourist areas and subway/train/bus stations. Some people who you give your money to, are indeed, just playing a role. We have seen a man that we gave money to (with a puppy) a few hours later in a suit. Realizing we noticed him got nervous and turned in a different direction.
In France the gratuity is in the bill. However! If the service was exemplary, it is okay to leave additional gratuity. However, unlike in the US, it’s not obligatory. However, taxi drivers..yes, you should. Uber drivers, definitely not (granted, a Frenchman I met in Bali told me the got rid of Uber in the city.).
- Make sure you have comfortable shoes, and some ibuprofen.
France is old. The streets are old. The elevator (lifts) are old. You’re going to walk. Honestly, you’re going to want to walk. You’ll see so much more when you explore, and sometimes you get to places you didn’t even know you were looking for. You can definitely find some hidden gems. Comfortable shoes differ for different people, for some they are some old sneakers, I prefer sandals. To each their own. No matter how comfy the shoes, it doesn’t hurt to have ibuprofen on hand when you don’t think you’re going to make it without cutting your feet off.