- 27, Aug 2018
- All things Paris
- Amanda Mehtala & Arthini Pulenthiran
Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, understandably so, and with so many tourists running around, it's hard to try and see the local side of the City of Lights. But to see the Paris of the Parisians, you can take some first steps to blend in with the locals and discover a hidden side of Paris. All it takes to catch a glimpse of Parisian lifestyle is to live it yourself! From embracing the Parisian style, to how the locals eat, communicate, and navigate around Paris, just do as the Parisians do and you'll blend right in. When in Rome (or Paris), as they say...
Here's our top 10 tips to be an "invisible" tourist in Paris:
1. Dress like the locals in Paris
We know you love your baseball caps… but maybe leave them at home this time. While you'll find a different sense of the word "casual" around the globe, Parisians are definitely more on the chic side of the spectrum, and would never head out to run errands in anything that could be considered loungewear (yoga pants and sweats are for the gym!). In the fashion capital of the world, you can expect a lot of individuality, but it’s also a city of very classic, chic fashion. Instead of always following the latest trends, Parisians will opt for classic pieces that never go out of style. If you want to dress like the locals in Paris, stay close to neutral colors, black, grey, beige, navy, (olive green if you’re feeling adventurous) - during the winter season that is. Brighter colors tend to only make an appearence during the warmer months. If you happen to be in Paris during the first warm day of the year, you'll see the city come to life as everyone takes out the colorful summer pieces from their wardrobe! So when packing for Paris, think chic yet practical, and always timeless classics - and leave the sweatpants and fanny packs at home!
2. Eat like the Parisians
Thinking of French cuisine will have you drooling, but just like everyone else, Parisians aren’t eating at five star restaurants every day. While it’s of course nice to visit a restaurant or two while in Paris to experience true French gastronomy, (the French are very proud of their food!), it can also be nice to take a step back and eat like a local. To blend in with the Parisians, avoid the restaurants near the major tourist attractions, and opt instead to seek out some more decadent local everyday delights. When visiting a new city, eating like a local is one of the best ways to get to know the city and the daily life of its residents. In Paris, many neighborhoods have markets a few days a week, full of fresh produce, locally produced cheese and meats, and delicious street food. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, but also stop by for an authentic meal prepared on the spot that tastes just as good, if not better, than your 3-course restaurant meal. This is both a great way to eat good food on a budget, and experience all the local variety available. Imagine, a freshly baked baguette covered in locally produced honey and goat cheese, with ripe peaches for dessert? Now that's Parisian!
Explore the list of outdoor and covered food markets throughout Paris
Looking for some Paris food festivals?
Another tip? Something that’s also quite popular with Parisians are picnics! With parks almost everywhere in Paris, you will often see people lounging in the grass with their homemade picnics. Explore one of the food markets before heading for an afternoon at one of Paris' many parks and gardens.
3. Understanding French dining etiquette
If you do choose to take part in the luxury of eating out in Paris, make sure you are familiar with French dining etiquette. The French are very polite and have some unspoken table manners that are best followed if you want to be mistaken for a Parisian. Here's some quick tips:
1. Keep your hands on the table! Always. It can be difficult to remember, but make sure you don’t rest your hands on your lap. If your hands aren’t seen, it can be considered rude.
2. Make sure everybody at your table has been served their meal and/or their drink before you dig in yourself. Once everything is in place, start off with a “Bon Appétit!” before the first bite.
3. French waiters generally are not in a rush for you to leave the table, as you might find in some English-speaking countries, and generally they will leave you in peace and will not bring you the check until you have indicated you're ready. If you're in a hurry and would like your check, it's better to just ask or head right up to the counter to pay! L'addition, s'il vous plait!
4. Same thing goes for tipping. Parisian diners will generally leave a few euros as a thank you for exceptional service, otherwise gratuity is not mandatory like in North American countries, and restaurant serving staff earn regular salaries and are not dependant on your 20%.
4. Ride the Paris Metro
Paris has an amazing public transportation system, with 14 individual metro lines, as well as commuter rails more long distance options. There is absolutely no need to take a taxi anywhere when the metro system will get you where you need to be, and Parisians do just that! The metros run every 2-6 minutes, which means you’ll never have to wait long, and at any given point in Paris the farthest you'll have to walk to get to a metro station is only a few minutes. Sometimes, the metro ends up getting you to your destination faster than a car due to traffic in the narrow Parisian streets! What's more? Riding the metro in Paris is also a great place to people watch and observe Parisians in their daily life. Both efficient, cost effective, and eco-friendly, bite the bullet and hop on the metro in Paris to blend in with the Parisian.
Paris metro tickets can be purchased individually or in packets of ten. For those staying in Paris at least a full week, you can also purchase an unlimited weekly or monthly pass, simply go to any of the English-friendly ticketing machines upon entry.
5. Keep your voice down in Paris, just a little
Some more advice to blend in with the Parisians is to be just a little bit more conscious of noise levels. When in public places such as the metro or walking through the street, avoid speaking too loudly or yelling a conversation across an open space. Save your phone calls for after you get out of the metro. Instead, think Parisian - chic and discreet - when in shared public spaces. English speakers have a reputation in France of being rather loud and boisterous, don't bring such stereotypes to life! A little quiet goes a long way when looking to blend in with the locals in Paris.
6. Walk through Paris instead
Paris is a very walkable city, you can get almost anywhere by foot. It’s sometimes more enjoyable to travel the city by walking rather than the taking the metro if your destination is not too far away. This allows you to see different parts of the city during your walk compared to the dark underground tunnels through the metro windows. If you get lost, you can be fashionably lateà la parisienne, and you never know what Parisian treasures you'll find along the way! The locals in Paris are used to walking quite a bit, and you'll see this in their sensible footwear choices as well. The stiletto heels tend to stay on the Paris Fashion Week runways, and flip flops are for the beach. Think like a Parisian and opt for some comfortable classic footwear you can walk in with ease.
7. Delve into the French art of flâner
Find yourself with a pocket of time to kill in Paris? Parfait, time for a perfectly Parisian pasttime. The word flâner in French simply means to take a stroll, explore and discover with no particular agenda. Pick a seat on the terrace and watch the people pass by as you sip on a coffee, or poke your head into a church or park just to discover what treasures are hidden inside. Take a look around and see how many Parisians you can spot reading a book or simply people watching, taking their time to appreciate the day. Take a page out of their book and see where the time takes you, it's afternoons like this that you'll make the most interesting of discoveries, we promise!
8. Ditch the big folding map, or upgrade to digital
Maps are tempting in Paris, especially when tourism offices happily give you ten just in case you lose the first nine. But maps quickly draw attention to you, and people automatically know you’re not from the city. If you're looking to explore Paris like a local, then ditch the tourist map, and upgrade to a pocket guide if you're not quite ready yet to start exploring without one. Parisian favorite? The Citymapper app is a lifesaver and used daily by the locals to get around, showing you all the best routes walking, biking, on the metro and buses, and even an Uber estimation. Worried about international phone service? Plans in Europe are tremendously cheap compared to plans in North America, you can get enough data to last you a few weeks for five to ten euros allowing you to use all your favorite apps on your phone to navigate the city like a local. Another option? Insidr has created smartphones to rent during the duration of your stay, that also act as a travel guide in your pocket! Regardless of which alternative you opt for, check your itinerary quickly so you can get your nose out of the map and take in the Parisian sights all around you!
9. Paris Metro manners: stay to the right!
Stand on the right side of the escalator: Just do it! This tip applies to manybig cities, not only Paris, but if you want to navigate the City of Lights like a true local during rush hour, then this is your one tip to remember. Pedestrian traffic in metros and malls can get a bit congested and escalators are sometimes part of the reason. That’s why the system of escalator “sides” have been created. How does it work? If you're not in a hurry and want to ride the escalator in peace, stand to the right. This leaves the left side open for those that are in a hurry and need to get through.
Another tip? When a metro train arrives, make sure you stand aside and allow people to exit the train before you push through to enter. A bit of metro manners goes a long way, and everyone's happy!
10. Learn a little French, just the basics
French can be an intimidating language. We're not telling you to become fluent, but simply learning a few helpful phrases and vocabulary can go a long way in making your Paris experience go smoothly. The French are very proud of their language and heritage. Parisians appreciate every attempt to learn their language, and will immediately try their best to help you if you are in need of anything. Learning the language is part of learning the culture behind it, and when traveling, knowing just a few words is a great way to better appreciate that culture with meaningful interactions. To get you started:
Hello / Bonjour
Good evening / Bonsoir
Have a good day / Bonne Journée
Have a good evening / Bonne soirée
Thank you / Merci
Excuse me / Excusez-moi, pardon
Do you speak English? / Parlez-vous anglais?
So there you have it, just a few things to think of when traveling to Paris to get a taste of local life and blend in with the Parisians. EVen the smallest of things can go a long way to making the most of your time in Paris. In one of the most visited cities in the world, it's hard to get a taste of local everyday life. Our best advice is always to do as the locals do, from shopping to eating, to conversing and going out, get the most of your Paris experience by being a true Parisian yourself!
Bonus tip to live like a local in Paris
When in Paris, do as the locals do, and head to the theatre of course! New York and London theatre scenes may be known around the globe, yet the City of Lights also counts hundreds of playhouses and theatre scattered across the city. Parisians line up every night of the week to catch a show, and now you can too! From neighborhood theatres to grandiose French playhouses, Parisian theatre isn't just for the locals anymore.