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How to Avoid Acting Like a Tourist

Embracing French Culture and Acting Like a Local


When in France, if you do as the French do you will probably have a much more enjoyable experience. A few lessons in French culture will help you understand why things are a certain way in France, and how to stand out less as a tourist.

Besides, is it really so bad to enjoy a long lunch? Or have your coffee in the cafe instead of rushing around with a to-go cup. Don't fight the French system, embrace the culture and you will look far less like a tourist.

Here are ways to look like a local and not act like a tourist:

Enjoy Your Meals, Don't Rush Them

What's the rush? Aren't you on vacation? If you are American, it might be a culture shock to eat a meal at a French restaurant. While it's possible to find a importer (to go) signs at restaurants, this really goes against the French style.

If your waiter doesn't rush over to bring you your check the moment you eat your last bite (he or she probably won't because they don't want you to feel rushed), don't be surprised. Enjoy a little more conversation, sips of wine and, if you're at a cafe, people-watching.

Find out more: French Table Manners

Speak a Little French

You don't need to take an intensive six-week French course, but you will stand out as a tourist much less if you can at least express some niceties, like "hello" and "do you speak English?" in French.

Find out more: How to Avoid the "Rude French" or Learn French in a Few Minutes

Don't Leave Huge Tips

While it might seem polite to leave a huge tip for great service, this is not very French. If you're at a restaurant, the tip is already included anyway. There's one sure-fire way to stand out as a tourist in France, which is to then leave another 15 to 20 percent on top of that. It is more customary to leave the change or some other small amount over the included tip.

Find out more: Tipping in France

Dress Like the French

If you wear a Yankees tee-shirt and sloppy tennis shoes, you will quickly stand out as a tourist. While the French are increasingly wearing clothes like jeans and sneakers (particularly the young French), their casual dress is still dressier than American casual dress. You will blend in with the French more if you go with something casual but elegant.

Find out more: Can You Wear Sneakers in France?

Go With the French Schedule

If you hit the tourist attractions at lunchtime and the eateries at 3 p.m., you might find both closed and look like a tourist. The French tend to eat meals at mealtimes, and many shops and attractions close for lunch. You will have a much better experience if you just know this before you go, and plan your days appropriately. Also don't make ambitious shopping plans for Sunday, when the government mandates that nearly all shops be closed.

Find out more: The French Schedule

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