Tourists are coming back to Paris and I think it’s wonderful.
After all, without tourists, I’m not sure I’d have a job as a Paris podcaster. And I really do enjoy seeing all these people who’ve travelled to Paris, and who are clearly so happy to be here.
But, I’m afraid to say that the current influx of tourists has highlighted some bad habits that need to be addressed. So, after careful observation, here are the ten mistakes you should avoid if you want to be a good tourist in Paris.
The written list is below if you’re in a rush, but click play below to enjoy the story told properly via the podcast. Today’s guest is my wife, Lina – she is my wife and the woman beside me in most of the pics I’ve shared below.
1. Falling for the scams
The main one I want you to avoid is the three-cup monte, that one drives me crazy. These short cons have been around since the 15th century, so I doubt they’ll disappear anytime soon.
But hear me out: If there’s a ball and three cups, with an excited crowd around the dealer… if it looks like easy money, if it looks too good to be true: You’re about to get scammed. You can’t win that game. And do you really, really think some guy on the street will give you 50 euros because you guessed the right cup? Not gonna happen, move on. (Or, stand back and watch for five minutes. You’ll see just how many people are insiders on the scam trying to take your money. It’s fascinating and frightening.)
While I’m at it, don’t get the cotton bracelets, don’t sign the petitions for “deaf” people, and if someone says you dropped your golden ring – just walk away. Spend your hard-earned cash on something better (like a book about Paris or an Earful Tower membership, perhaps).
2. Sitting at the cafes (without a waiter’s blessing)
When you approach a cafe and you fancy sitting on the terrace, make eye contact with a waiter first. You might irritate the staff if you simply plonk yourself down. And then, imagine this: if the waiter gets irritated, they might come across as rude. Then you’ll be sitting there thinking “Well goodness me, the stereotypes are all true!”… when in reality, it was you who started on the wrong foot! Seeking out the waiter before sitting down is good Paris practice, be sure to do it.
3. Talking too loudly
I get into this one in the podcast a whole lot more, but there are some nationalities known for talking very loudly at the dinner table. The French speak quite quietly and they don’t enjoy having to hear you too. Check yourself, or you might be asked to be quiet by another customer. I’ve seen it happen many times, and I’ve even been in the offending group before.
4. Planning every detail of your trip
This is an important one. Lots of people come to Paris with every second of their trip planned. Don’t! The city is best enjoyed at a leisurely wandering pace. Leave at least an afternoon or morning with nothing on the itinerary. You might stumble upon a treasure.
5. Stopping on the sidewalk
Never, and I repeat, never stop abruptly on the sidewalk. Parisians move quickly and the sidewalks are narrow. If you stop to admire a facade, to check your phone, to open your map, you will risk maddening a local. Imagine you’re in a car on the road – do a little shoulder check first 🙂
6. Crossing at red lights
Public safety announcement: Unless you’re used to the little red men and little green men in Paris, never cross when the red guy is flashing. Especially not after he has been flashing for a while. Might sound like common sense, but I have seen frightening numbers of people trying to dash across a busy road on foot, on scooter, on a bike, and then get into an accident or a near miss as a result. Just wait!
7. Not learning 10 words of French
This is just a polite thing, really. Learn ten words of French before you come here. Any ten will do, but I suggest these ones: Bonjour, parlez vous anglais, s’il vous plait, merci, bonne journee, au revoir. Those will get you through most situations. And as I said on the pod, don’t be afraid that French people will respond in rapid-fire French. Believe me, they’ll know from your accent that you’re not a fluent French speaker, but they will be glad you tried. More French language tips from me here.
8. Dressing to impress
There’s nothing wrong with dressing well in Paris, but I’d advise against dressing to impress if you’re planning to explore the city. Dress for a long walk, not the cat walk. We’ve seen lots of people, especially women, come to Paris wearing clothes that would suit a nightclub rather than the Jardin des Tuileries. Wondering what to wear in Paris? I’ve got you covered.
9. Staying outside the city
If at all possible, stay as centrally as you can. I realize this may be tough for some, but if you can juggle your finances, it’s really worth it to stay in Paris (and not in the outskirts). The possibility of ducking home to change clothes, or to take a rest, will make all the difference. You don’t want to spend your days in Paris commuting!
10. Not embracing your inner tourist
This last tip might sound out of place, but I really think it’s important you have fun while touristing around Paris. I explain this way better on the podcast episode, but I explained how I saw tourists on an open-air bus looking shy and embarrassed. You’re in Paris. You’re on a tourist bus. You’re taking pics of the Eiffel tower for goodness sake. So if you see me waving at you from the street, don’t be shy, wave back. Embrace your inner tourist. After all, it’s very difficult to blend in with the Parisians anyway, you may as well have some fun 😉
OK that’s enough tips from me, but let me add something. I put out a very specific challenge in this podcast episode, which will explain the cryptic messages people have been leaving on this Instagram post. Join the listeners, see what all the fuss is about.
And lastly, with the money you’ve saved from avoiding the three-cup monte scam, why not buy my PDF guide to Paris? Or any of my books really 🙂 They’re all linked below and we’ll send them directly from our own stock. Merci 🙂