Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vacationing in Paris? Tips for Fitting in with the Locals

Take in a view of Notre Dame, then parlez
with the booksellers along the river.

When traveling to a foreign country, you want to try to fit in with local customs and habits. This is perhaps even more true for people who stay at Paris vacation rentals. After all, you’re likely to be living like a local, versus a tourist staying at a hotel. And truly living like a local in Paris, with all its amazing charms, can make your trip to this eternally romantic city even more enjoyable.

The first thing to remember is to keep it simple to start. A friendly bonjour (hello), or asking if the person you meet speaks English (parlez-vous anglais?) is highly regarded. Be patient, and speak English slowly, though not loudly, and you will be greeted with open arms. Parisians are generally private people but may enjoy casual people watching from cafes. Eye contact should be avoided in public, especially in the case of opposing genders, as this can be misconstrued for affection.

What are Good Parisian Manners?

Parisians greet by shaking hands; air-kisses are widely recognized as a common action but are usually reserved for close companions. However, don't be surprised if they extend this gesture to you as their guest. Follow your companion's lead if you're unsure of any social expectation, and only offer one light air kiss, or bisous, on each cheek. This may take some practice to build confidence. In many cases, a simple display of your basic phrases will be enough to assure your company that you are American but willing to learn, and that is all they ask.

Who Should I Tip in Paris?

Unlike America, tipping is not usually expected. Most restaurants add a 15% service fee to your bill automatically, but this is not considered a tip. Many Parisians will refuse to offer an additional 10% to their server unless the service was outstanding. Only in cases of exceptional service or in restaurants that hold higher esteem does it become more of an expectation to tip. If you take a taxi, drivers should always be tipped; tips do not usually exceed one or two Euros. Usherettes at the Opera house should also be tipped; they are the only other exception to the rule.