Etiquette in Paris: 15 Things Every Visitor Should Know

Read at the Frommer’s travelblog last month :

Customs

The French like to look at people?that’s half the point of cafés and fashion, so get used to being looked at; it’s as natural here as breathing. They’ll look at your shoes or your watch, check out what you’re wearing or reading.

What they will not do is maintain steady eye contact or smile. If a stranger of the opposite sex smiles at you, it’s best to do as the French do and return only a blank look before turning away. If you smile back, you might find yourself in a Pepé Le Pew?type situation.

Visitors’ exuberance?and accompanying loud voices?may cause discreet Parisians to raise their eyebrows or give a deep chesty sigh. They’re not being rude, but they’re telling you that they think you are. Be aware of your surroundings and lower your voice accordingly, especially in churches, museums, restaurants, theaters, cinemas, and the métro.

When entering and leaving a shop, greet and say good-bye to the staff. A simple bonjour, monsieur/madame and au revoir, merci are considered a virtual necessity for politeness.

Other basic pleasantries in French include bonne journée (have a nice day); bonne soirée (have a nice evening); enchanté (nice to meet you); s’il vous plaît (please); and je vous en prie (you’re welcome).

When asking for directions or other help, be sure to preface your request with a polite phrase such as excusez-moi de vous déranger, madame/monsieur (excuse me for bothering you, ma’am/sir).

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