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What do you wish someone had told you?

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Oregon
posts: 509
reviews: 15
What do you wish someone had told you?

My husband and I are about to take our first trip to Paris in a few weeks. We currently live in the Netherlands and are fairly frequent travelers. I've been doing all my "homework" by researching and reading various posts here and in on other forums, but there are some things that can fall through the cracks. Plus I'm just plain curious and I find TA forumites to be some of the most generous and interesting folks around.

My question is this: for those of you who have already experienced Paris, what did you discover you wished someone had told you before your first trip? Did someone give you advice that you found particularly helpful or useful that you'd be willing to pass on? Anything from communicating, how to deal with scammers, public transport, public toilets, supermarket etiquette, restaurant behaviour, cultural "quirks" particular to Paris, how to generally not annoy the locals and be a good visitor etc. etc. etc.

My thanks to anyone who shares their thoughts on any of the above.

1,352 replies to this topic
Paris, France
posts: 22,543
reviews: 32
1. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

1. Scammer are invisible, you must not even acknowledge that you have seen them, keep walking. You do not understand or speak any language that they speak.

2. Always begin your intervention with a French person with "bonjour." (Bonjour, do you speak English, bonjour, can we have a meal now, bonjour, how much does this cost, etc.)

Edited: 3:14 pm, August 15, 2011
Toronto, Canada
posts: 3,546
reviews: 4
2. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

I'm not sure if I can say that I wasn't told certain things, but sometimes one gets varying opinions on a subject - especially here on Trip Advisor.

I wish I would not have carried my passport and credit cards/extra money in a neck safe/money belt everywhere in Paris. The website for Canada's passports said to always have your passport on your person, preferably in a money belt. I wish I had listened to others here on the forum and left it in the hotel safe. (I do now, and only carry a photocopy). It was never lost or stolen, but money belts are a pain.

I wish someone had convinced my husband that the Moulin Rouge is a cheesy tourist trap with way too many people stuffed in there. I already had my strong suspicions, but they were strongly confirmed for both myself and my husband after going to a show there.

And I wish someone warned me that the minute I returned home from Paris, I would be miserable, and have to plan out my next trip immediately. Having known that, perhaps I would have started saving in my childhood! :-)

Barnstaple, United...
Destination Expert
for Barnstaple, Robin Hoods Bay, Whitby
posts: 4,129
reviews: 163
3. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

I can't really think of anything major except leave time to relax and enjoy the city and be prepared to become addicted to the place!

Toronto, Canada
posts: 3,546
reviews: 4
4. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

I think also, I wish I had a clearer insight into French culture before I first started going to Paris, i.e. I wish I had known that they are often a little more reserved and formal in their manners than we are in North America.

Had I known that, I think the first couple of times I went to Paris many years ago, I probably would have had a better understanding of how our dealings with waiters, staff, etc. went. I think sometimes in my culture, the service industry tends to be "Hi my name is Amber and I'll be your server. How are you guys today? I love your sweater! So what can I get for you Hon?". So when you encounter a much more formal and reserved welcome, people can take that to be standoffish or rude. It's not, it's just different than what we tend to be used to.

Maryland
posts: 8
reviews: 18
5. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

I agree with other posts about the courtesy of trying some words of French, even if you are not that confident. When you are out of Paris and you want to learn a new word, I find that "Comment dit on (fill in english word) en francais?" This works best with students or young adults. Bon vacances!

Boston...
posts: 12,382
reviews: 9
6. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

I'm still laughing at K2's #1. That's a good one. And so true!

I guess I'd say not to try and cram so much in to your trip that you lose sight of the fact the Paris is meant to be savored slowly. It's a beautiful city, but you need to take time to absorb that sort of beauty and not rush around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to see everything and not really seeing anything in the end.

Victoria, Canada
posts: 17,041
reviews: 48
7. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

Wow,, so many little tips, many of them learned here. You don't have to get a Musuem pass to avoid long lines in many places, there are alternate entrances and online tickets and a bunch of other tricks.

Having a pen and paper easy to get to is handy if you want to write down a number or have a shop keeper do so,, I know french numbers up to a hundred or so , but when they speak quickly I can get confused.

Ignore ignore ignore,, I knew this one from relatives, but I really think its something that every first time visitor should learn to do when confronted by strangers wanting to "chat" have you sign a clip board, or give you a ring.. lol.People from big cities usually know this, but people from smaller cities and towns may feel they are being rude. They are not, they are being smart .

Hotel rooms with shower only usually have the type of shower I am used to, the mounted one in a stall,, ones with tub and shower often have a hand held shower and no shower curtain, so you have to sit in tub and "shower" or get room soaking. I try to reserve shower only rooms.

French people are not cold or rude, but, they are not bubbly "hi I'm Jeff your waiter for tonight " types either,, they are warm and wonderful with family and close friends, but there is a reserve that is cultural and does not mean they hate you,, just like you are not crazy cause you smile at passerbys( they think its weird there) ,, they are not mean cause they don't. Showing respect is important there, always greet( bonjour madame or monsieur) shopkeeper or clerk before asking for anything,, they are not your servants and feel very much to be at same standing as you,, the revolution meant something to them,, lol so just walking up and demanding something is a no no.. ( hey they will likely give it to you, but there will be an air about it ),, and metro kiosk workers can actually just ignore you ( I have seen them close a window on a rude demanding tourist once,, he just kept yelling at them louder and louder in english,, thinking that would help,, lol )

Try the stinky cheeses( being from Netherlands you probaly know this one) , they are often the tastiest.

Pops and juices are expensive in restos.. get house wine and tap water.

Its worth the metro trip out to St Denis, I guess I should be happy its not a crowded place like Notre Dame, but its so worth seeing if you have any interest in French history.. I loved my day there.

You can't just sit on the grass anywhere in Luxembourg gardens,, there are signs everywhere , but I just thought this was weird,, so plan to picnic on a bench,, there is sitting grass, but on hot days its crowded.

Toronto, Canada
posts: 327
8. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

One thing is very important - do not try to "see it all". You will destroy your trip. Visit a few places of note but remember, much of the charm of Paris is simply walking the streets and absorbing the ambiance. Sit in a cafe, have a glass of wine and let the city pass by. Another thing; in the morning, go to "le Zinc"(any local brasserie), stand at the bar and order a Creme or espresso, perhaps a pastry and try your French with your neighbour. On the subject of French, the French like politeness. Use s'il vou plais (please) OFTEN. Try some simple French phrases such as Bonjour (good day), and ca va (how are you doing?) along with s'il vous plait. It goes a long way.

St. Petersburg...
posts: 1,101
reviews: 7
9. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

I wish someone had told me to trust my husband on his solo ventures. He knows about 10 words of French, but I have seen him exhibit a charm that has every Paris shopkeeper smiling at him after 30 seconds. I always expected a call from the local gendarmes ... thinking that he might have made some horrible gaffe ... but everyone he meets seems to just love him. Go figure ... LOL!

Fullerton...
posts: 1,108
reviews: 1
10. Re: What do you wish someone had told you?

Wear the absolutely most comfortable shoes you own, even if they are white sneakers. It really is true that no one cares what you have on your feet. I made the mistake of trying to "look fashionable" and ended up with blisters, even with shoes I wore all day for work. Luckily, I had thrown my trusty, worn-in sneakers at the last minute and they saved my trip. Have a pair of nice shoes for that special dinner out but otherwise...think comfort.

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