Fall is in full swing now here in France, so the tourist season has wound down. Nonetheless, between the interns that are regularly coming through our ministry, and the never-ending interest in the City of Lights, I still manage to always have people I know who are visiting Paris and ask me for my tips and recommendations. So in honor of my parent's visit, I am beginning a new post series of travel tips when visiting Paris. Today I am starting with what I think might be the most important piece of advice someone could receive if they are coming to France.
Parisians are very used to tourists because they are always in their city. However, because of this, sometimes we tourists can become a bit of a nuisance... Especially when we don’t respect their cultural rules of etiquette. In general, I actually find that it is more often Americans who are rude to the French than the other way around. The French only seem rude because they assume the tourist is being insensitive by not following their standards of politeness, and therefore, pay them the same "respect".
Therefore, regardless of your knowledge of the French language, I highly recommend learning just a few short phrases that follow their rules of etiquette that will help you out immensely as you interact with locals.
|This is me nearly two years ago the very fist time I came to Paris... how I wish I had known the nugget of info I am giving you now!|
So here we go: my number one tip if you are going to visit France. It is surprisingly simple, yet it will make your life so much easier and your vacation time less stressful...
Everything starts with "Bonjour."
Everything starts with "Bonjour."
When approaching anyone, whether they be someone at a bakery counter, in the metro, a checkout person, even someone on the street, ALWAYS start with “Bonjour”. (You can say “Bonsoir” if it is evening or night time). I cannot stress the importance of this enough. This bit of verbal exchange is extremely important to the French. It's so important, in fact, that it was the very first thing I was taught day one of French class. If you don’t start with “Bonjour”, a French person will assume that you are very rude. In America, we normally say "Excuse me," when approaching a stranger before speaking. Think of "Bonjour" like "Excuse me", yet even more important. To a French person, forgetting to start with "Bonjour" assumes that you have no respect for them as an individual, their space, or their opinion. The French are very formal when interacting with people that they do not know. So to approach someone without a proper greeting would be seen as far too direct and familiar, aside from the fact that it is just plane rude.
Only after you say “Bonjour” is it appropriate to ask for help.
I imagine the next thing you will want to express is that you cannot speak or do not understand French and need help in English. You can express this easily in one or two simple phrases, so take your pick:
- “Desolé, je ne parle pas Françias” - Sorry, I do not speak French.
- pronunciation - “dez-oh-lay, juh nuh par-luh pah fron-say”
- “Je parle Anglais” - I speak English.
- pronunciation - “juh par-luh ong-glay”
- "Excusez- Moi..." - Excuse me...
- pronunciation - "excoo-zay mwa"
- “Je ne comprende pas Françias” - I do not understand French.
- pronunciation: “juh nuh compron (“-on” is an “oh” nasal sound) pah fron-say”
- “Vous parlez Anglais?” - Do you speak English?
- pronunciation: “voo par-lay ong-glay?”
Saying “Bonjour” and following with one of these above phrases often results in most French people being very willing to help you, as many speak English. But if you just approach someone and bluntly say, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” They may decide to ignore you completely. Because to them, you didn't care to be respectful, so why should they be respectful back?
Always say “Si vous plaît” (please) and “Merci!” (thank you) for any service you ask for and receive.
Lastly, If you have the time, practice your pronunciation, as this is important to the French! There are some great you tube videos out there that can help you with your French accent. Here are a few good ones:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AozDoB-ev1c (so this one is actually about how to have a French accent while speaking English.... pretty funny, but still helpful!)
Look at that! You got a travel tip and French lesson all in one!