79.5 million tourists visited France in 2011, making it the most popular tourist destination in the world. Thankfully, the French no longer expect everyone to speak their language, but it’s worth knowing a few things to help make your Gallic visit progress smoothly.
The Parisian waiter is the local you’re most likely to speak with. Beware.
Parisian waiters are famous for being rude. And curt. And slow to serve. But fret not. It’s not because you’re foreign, it’s because you’re a customer. You see, Parisian waiters are impolite to everyone, even each other.
The trick is to avoid eye contact with them. This is not a rude gesture to waiters in France. In that country, their profession is respected. All that is required is a simple ‘Bonjour’ or ‘Bonsoir’ (after 19:00) before ordering what you would like in English.
You may wish to enquire about a particular dish, but they may respond with: “I am not paid to speak English.” This was an actual response given to a friend of mine.
If you’re prepared for these exchanges, there’s less chance it will ruin your afternoon. So suck it up and know that it’s not you; these waiters live in one of the most expensive cities in the world while being paid a pittance.
And that’s really all the pitfalls you can encounter, apart from the teenage Roma Travellers who move in packs and target tourists in the Place Vendôme and in front of the Louvre.
And don’t miss the d’Orsay Museum.
However, the best tip about traveling to France is to spend a few days in Paris and then head for the countryside. There you will find natural beauty and the real French.