Last revised: May 26, 2013                                                                                            

 Paris - #1. we hope you've enjoyed our tour
 of Paris, and also our London photos. While I
 would rank Vancouver, B.C.; San Francisco, CA
 Washington D.C., and London very high on my
 list of 'world-class' cities, Paris would still be
 on the top as my very favorite places.

 After 45 years since my first visit, I found
 this 'City of Lights' to be more interesting and
 exciting then ever. The Musée d'Orsay is new,
 and the sparkling lights on the Eiffel Tower
 weren't  there last time either.

Thanks for visiting! Please sign our Guest Book!
 Vacation.     ...

        Tips, Secrets & Our Experience        

 About the French: Most Americans are very opinionated about the French, but often only know what they read in the newspapers or watch on TV. Just as we would not want to be judged by the decisions often made in the White House and Congress, we should not judge the French citizens by decisions made by their government.

The people of Paris are often viewed as being 'snobs'. often rude, and living in a world of their own. When you visit, it is important to develop the right attitude, rather than judge the cultural differences. Our brief encounter with them was pleasant and I hope our vacation experience may have some influence on your feelings if you ever get the opportunity to visit Paris.

When we return to Paris (not IF, but When), we will plan to at least take a 'conversational French class', learn more about their customs and culture and spend more time in research on the Internet and Libraries to be able to make the most of our time. Although we had no trouble with the language on this trip - many waiters spoke some English, and menus often had English descriptions - a French class would be helpful. The French appreciate visitors who at least try to speak their language. Karen studied some language tapes for a few months before our trip and did quite well. She learned one important common courtesy phrase: Bonjour madame/monsieur (bohn-joor mad-am, mis-yoo) when you enter a store or place of business; and au revoir (oh-vwah) when you leave. She also helped us in restaurants and stores.

Sometimes the French are described as being "mean and cold and refuse to speak English". The French are as friendly as any other people and are no more disagreeable than New Yorkers. The French speak more English than Americans speak French. The French study English for a minimum of four years at school (often longer) and English is widely understood in major tourist areas. However, be courteous and speak slowly: The French, after all, have many other tourists from many other countries as well. Be reasonable in your expectations. The French respond more quickly to charm than to anything else.

And you may run into a few 'rude' waiters, probably in the same restaurants that once insulted other visitors like van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway, Gershwin and Woody Allen. Some policemen also may not always be friendly, (they aren't tour guides or information centers). We Americans tend to ask too many questions, and talk too fast. Imagine our responses to someone visiting the USA from France, and not speaking English.

There is still so much to see in Paris, and in four short days it was impossible to see everything we wanted to see. Of course a visit to Versailles will be high on our list for our next visit, and we want to take a train ride to southern France to the vineyards and also to southwest France to Albi, where Toulouse-Lautrec was born and a wonderful museum (Musée Toulouse Lautrec) of many of his works of art.

Tips and Advice - (Gleaned from our experience)

Stereotypes! - Rude?  Indifferent?  Snobbish? Arrogant? -- Shopping is usually the first encounter that leads to an immediate opinion in the mind of most travelers, and Americans, used to wandering in shops, checking things, touching things, take merchandise to a cashier without much personal attention.  

In France, you are expected to say hello. "Bonjour!" The clerk's job is to serve you; you need to announce your intention so she would know what to do. If you want to look around, say so. If you want to look at merchandise, say "May I...?" When leaving always say goodbye and thank you.

Don't expect waiters to come asking if everything is fine with your meal. In the USA they earn their living with tips. In Europe, meals are social events and there is no rush. Gratuities are often included, and are usually indicated on menus. If you don't ask for the check, no one will give it to you. If you need something from the waiter, discreetly signal instead of calling out for his attention.

We found that the French are some of the nicest people in the world and will go out of their way to help you. The French, in general, are a gracious people, they are passionate, like to debate, and speak their mind openly.

HOW-TO Stay on the good side of Parisians:

1. TRY to speak French... They appreciate it when you try. They may reply in English, But by trying you are showing respect.
2. Don't be so darn loud!   The French speak in softer tones -- particularly in public places like restaurants.
3. France has a long history of being invaded and occupied, so they are wary of strangers, particularly if you smile.
4. Parisians don't like to be inconvenienced -- don't hold up lines or block sidewalks if crowds are trying to get by
5. Don't ask tons of questions of a Metro ticket seller if there's a long line behind you.
6. Respect Parisians, they have an inbred inferiority complex. If you smile, they'll think you want something from them.
7. Some Parisians may stare at you. They don't think it's rude, so don' t worry!
8. Similar to New Yorkers, you always know where you stand. Either they like the look of you or they don't.
9. French talk about everything while they eat: sex, personal problems, politics. It's not impolite.
10. The importance of privacy. Because Paris is a very densely populated city, people are always surrounded by other people, and sometimes you may have to share your table with a total stranger.
11. They will ignore you. This is not because they are snobs, it is a mark of respect and politeness. Privacy is important
12. Restaurant quality of service: If you want something, you need to get the waiter's attention. Bothering a customer while he is eating or having a conversation is considered rude in Paris. Just make eye contact and wave or say 'excuse me'. 'Pardon'
13. We Americans expect a certain level of cordiality when meeting people, and expect an exchange of smiles. In Europe this is not done. It's not rudeness, it's just their culture.
14. Space Respect. You'll often find yourself elbow to elbow with a person next to you at a sidewalk cafe. Parisians are used to this closeness and will completely ignore you. They're not being rude! They are only respecting your space. Respect their's!
15. Just because you're next to someone doesn't mean you have to talk to them. Respect their space.
16. Parisians are polite, especially to older people. Often the difference between getting good and bad service is the difference between a little meek politeness and careless rudeness. Tone and facial expressions can do wonders.
17. Maintain composure at all times and act like you mean business -- speak softly and politely.

Remember:  People are the same where ever you go. Some are nice and some are not. Don't stereotype the French! If you look, you will always find a rude Parisian or two -- every culture has them, but for the most part we found the French to be extremely kind, helpful, curious about our culture and very polite. Many Americans could learn from them.

Personal Safety

Be a NON-Tourist! - Don't Look like a tourist, (baseball caps and advertising on T-shirts are some clues). Studying maps in the middle of a sidewalk, carrying bags from expensive stores, flashing a roll of paper money, trying to figure out Metro ticket machines etc... Try to blend in and walk purposefully. You'll see signs in the Metro stations, near the Eiffel Tower and other places warning of pick-pockets. Always wear a money belt. We had no problems and never felt threatened, but we did observe young men loitering around tourist attractions and Metro stations.

Watch out for someone 'tripping' in front of you, or bumping you, or for teams of two or more to distract you in some way while someone else quickly takes something from your pocket. Don't get distracted reading maps on the Metro! Try not to talk too much English in crowded areas or look like you don't know where you are going even if you don't. Sometimes a very well-dressed white male may ask if he can help you find something or someplace on a map. The pick-pockets know all the tricks, so be careful!

We were always cautious, but at the same time enjoyed the best vacation we've ever had in two of the world's most beautiful cities. I hope you will someday enjoy this part of the world too.  Thanks for visiting this Website!    R & K
 


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Last revised: May 26, 2013

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