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How To Not Look Like A Tourist in Paris

July 08, 2023
There's nothing more gauche than looking like a typical tourist in Paris. Not that it's a bad thing or anything, but even you have to admit it's easy to look like a stereotypical tourist in the French capital. And if you're one, you might already look like one and you didn't even know it! So how do you avoid looking like a tourist in Paris? Well, you can forego the beret, learn a little French, and get used to dining with a knife and fork, among many others. These may not seem like much, but trust that they make all the difference!

How To Not Look Like A Tourist in Paris

Learn Basic French

Perhaps the number one sign that you're a tourist in Paris is that you don't speak French. When you can only communicate in English (or your native language) and you need to use a translation app, locals will know instantly that you're not a Parisian. So to avoid giving off that impression, learn some basic French. You probably already know about “bonjour” (hello/ good morning), “bonsoir” (good evening), and “bonne nuit” (good night), right? Not to mention “merci” (thank you) and “désolé/pardon” (sorry) too. Expand your French (and improve your pronunciation too!) a bit further and locals would be none the wiser!

Greet People The French Way

Your greeting will also give away that you're not from Paris and you're not French. Typically, when you meet people for the first time and make new friends, you give a handshake. The French, however, are more into kissing. Not the notorious French kiss, mind you! That's reserved for couples! Instead, the French greet each other by kissing both cheeks. Even when they're meeting people for the first time, most won't hesitate to land those kisses as a form of greeting. And if you're on the receiving end of those kisses and get flustered, they'll instantly know you're not Parisian at all.

How To Not Look Like A Tourist in Paris

Forget The Beret

If there's one thing Parisians don't like, it's a tourist dressing up like a cartoonish version of themselves. The common stereotype of a Frenchman is one that wears a Breton shirt, perhaps a red scarf tied around his neck, and of course, that dreaded beret. Breton shirts and scarves are wardrobe staples for Parisians so they can forgive you if you wear them out on the street (as long as you don't pair them together!). But a beret hat? Toss that to the Seine! It's become such a cliche that no Parisian practically wears it anymore. And it's high time tourists follow suit!

Keep Your Look Simple

If you want to dress like a Parisian, keep it simple! It's one thing to go for the stereotypical Parisian look that'll just make you look like a cartoon. But it's a whole other matter if you dress too outrageously, you stick out like a sore thumb. While Parisians love fashion, their signature style isn't as showstopping as their runway looks. In fact, something as simple as a white shirt and fitted jeans is enough. A little black dress or a tailored suit are great options too, especially for your evening attire. And if those are good enough for the French, they ought to be enough for you too!

How To Not Look Like A Tourist in Paris

Speak Softly

Whether you're in a restaurant or chatting with a friend as you visit the must-monuments in Paris, speak softly. Not so soft that the person you're talking to can't hear you anymore. But soft enough that you're not disrupting the peace and annoying the people around you. Parisians typically speak softly wherever they go. You'd hardly hear a peep from them when they're drinking coffee in a cafe. Or perusing the paintings in an art gallery. Not even when they're hanging out with friends at a nearby bar. Parisians are not the most soft-spoken people in the world, but they're definitely far from the loudest!

Eat With a Fork & Knife

Speaking of going to a restaurant, make sure to follow the Continental style of dining etiquette. This means you always use a fork and knife when you eat. Very rarely do you use a spoon—only when you're sipping soup or you have rice in your dish. But for the most part, your knife and fork won't make you seem like a tourist in Paris. You can even easily fool the snootiest of Parisians when you're dining in an upscale restaurant in Paris. They'll be none the wiser, that's for sure!

How To Not Look Like A Tourist in Paris

Don't Ask For A Doggy Bag

Now, let's say you're done eating. You're already full but there's still some food on your plate. Typically, you'd ask the server to wrap it up and give it to you in what many call a “doggy bag,” right? Well, don't do that in the French capital (or anywhere else in France, for that matter)! That's a surefire way to let everyone know that you're a tourist in Paris. Not to mention get a lot of unwanted stares and glares too. And though a recent French law has made it a requirement for restaurants to give out doggy bags when the customer asks for one, you're still better off just finishing your plate.

Avoid The Eye Contact in The Métro

Finally, when you're taking the Paris Métro, avoid eye contact at all times. You'll notice when you commute here that most people are reading something, looking out the window, or even taking a little snooze as the train goes on. Parisians would do anything to avoid eye contact in the métro, and the biggest faux pas any tourist would make is to look straight into another person's eye. For them, that's just plain rude and, if you're unlucky, asking for a fight! So keep your eyes to yourself the next time you take public transport in Paris.

How To Not Look Like A Tourist in Paris

It's fairly easy to avoid looking like a tourist in Paris. It all boils down to going out in style, learning some French, and getting used to the social and dining customs here. You'd be surprised at how simple it all is.