When traveling to any other country, it is important to be culturally sensitive and aware of the way you act in order to get the positive responses you desire from native people in the country you are visiting. France is no exception. Although some people may have heard the stereotypes of French people acting snobby or rude to foreigners, the same can be said for Americans, Britons, or people of any nationality. If you follow a few simple tips, you can have a much better time, and hopefully make some friends with locals on the way.
- Ask Before Speaking English
Even though English is one of the most prevalent languages in the world, it does not mean that it is the best language in the world, nor does it mean that everyone speaks English fluently and is comfortable speaking English. In particular, French people are proud of their gentle, poetic language, and as a visitor to France, you are on their home ground. Therefore, it is important to be respectful about language. This does not mean that you need to speak fluent French before you arrive in the country, it simply means that you need to know one simple phrase: ‘Parlez-vousanglais’ (PAHR-lay vewzon-GLAY). By simply asking if the other person speaks English in French politely first, you are taking a step in the right direction. Chances are, they will respond warmly and not feel as awkward if their English is not perfect.
- Take Your Time and Don’t Expect Perfection
Travelers need to be aware that their own stringent guidelines do not necessarily cross borders into other countries with us. Attitudes in Europe in general are fairly laid back about service, especially when it comes to restaurants in France. Where you might get a meal, eat, pay and be out the door in an hour in New York City, meals in Paris usually last for hours. If your food takes a while to come out, don’t expect to get a discount, instead sit back and order another glass of wine or just take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery. At the end of the meal, you may have to ask for your check, but try to do so kindly or it may only take longer. Waiters and waitresses are paid and hourly rate and they’re not depending on your tip, so if you want smooth service, do your part to take it easy and be polite.
- Understand and Follow the French Schedule
Unlike in say, America, where there is a pretty standard schedule of work from 8 or 9 to 5 or 6, people in France take their day slower and easier. Many businesses close altogether for lunch hours, and cafes take their breaks around 3pm. If you eat at midday with the rest of the French people and then visit tourist attractions or shops in the afternoon, you will be much better off than the other way around. Also, keep in mind that nearly all shops are closed on Sunday.
If you follow these three simple travel tips, you will be guaranteed to have a smoother and more enjoyable trip to France. Pack carefully, and don’t forget to leave your manners behind!