How to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist in France

By Briana Seftel


France continues to be one of the most visited countries in Europe, and for good reason. From the French Riviera to the Eiffel Tower, this country has no shortage of iconic things to see and do. French culture is also highly sought after, but a mystery to many. When you're traveling to France, how can you make sure to fit in?

Here are 8 tips on how to avoid looking like a tourist in France and embrace the French culture. Bon voyage!


Dress Appropriately

Leave the baseball caps at home.

Embrace the French je ne sais quoi when it comes to apparel. Skip the baseball caps, white socks, sneakers, large colorful backpacks, and fanny packs. Instead, opt for dark skinny jeans, plain shirts without logos, and leather shoes. Top it off with a scarf and you will look tres French.


Have Good Table Manners

No doggy bags please.

Good table manners are very important in Europe, especially in France. If you're dining out, don't ask for a doggy bag if you didn't finish your meal (it is seen as cheap and/or rude). When eating, don't switch your fork to your left hand or set aside your knife - Europeans always eat with a fork and knife, unless it's something like soup of course. Lastly, avoid asking for adjustments or changes to your dish because it is considered rude to the chef.


Avoid Outdated Stereotypes

Say "non" to a beret.

Contrary to popular belief, the French do not typically wear berets, unless you are an elderly man playing petanque in the park. And while the striped Breton shirt is common, there a certainly many other types of clothing found in France. Aside from apparel, saying "garcon" to a waiter is considered very rude. If you say it, you will likely not see your server for any time soon.


Use Your Indoor Voice

Be seen, not heard.

A dead giveaway for a tourist is speaking with a loud voice. French people tend to be quieter than most Europeans, so keep that in mind when you are out and about. Use your "indoor voice" that you would have in a museum, and you're good to go!


Learn a Few Key Phrases

A little French goes a long way!

You'll earn respect from the French if you know a few key phrases. When entering and exiting a business, it is polite to say "bonjour," "merci" and "au revoir" rather than speaking in English. Saying "ca va?" (an informal "how are you?" and "I'm okay") will really earn you brownie points among your French friends! Watch a French movie or a few YouTube videos to get a handle on the accent.


Skip the Hug

Two bisous will do.

Europeans in general are not big huggers. Instead, a common greeting in France is "faire la bise" (literally meaning "to make the kiss"). The two-kiss-on the-cheek greeting is the most common way to greet a friend in France. Let the French person make the first move - it will be less awkward. Keep in mind that two males generally don't do the two-kiss greeting, a simple handshake is suitable.


Don't Leave Huge Tips

In France, tip is included by default.

When paying your bill in France, tip is included by default and is called "service compris." The tip is usually 18%, which means you don't need to leave a tip on top. It is not unusual, however, to leave metal change when paying cash in a cafe or restaurant.


Avoid Eye Contact on the Metro

It will attract unwanted attention!

When taking the metro in France (especially Paris), it is best to keep to yourself and avoid eye contact. Almost everyone of the train always has some sort of book or newspaper to look through, even if they are only going two stops.

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