Dos and Don’ts When Visiting Paris, France

Eileen Callahan of Champagne TravelsBon voyage!

Paris, here we come! I’ve been traveling to Paris for over twenty-five years, previously worked for a French company, and am totally in love with the city of lights. I encourage more Americans and other Nationalities to visit this mecca of architectural sites and glorious scenery. The French have many stereotypes, like stuffy waiters, something they can never shake. But what’s worse is the ugly tourist label. You don’t want that honor, do you? Our world is now a culture where Yoga pants are acceptable at dinner, flip-flops are worn in church, and slippers on planes. Don’t be that person when visiting Paris. Below I recommend a few basic but essential suggestions and mannerisms to help you enjoy it even more.

These shoes are made for walking

Friends and family have traveled with me throughout the world. I have one hard-fast rule. Look down. What’s on your feet? Do not wear the sneakers you exercise in. You can tell if a person cares about their appearance by their shoes. Nice looking, economical, and cozy do exist. There is no reason to walk Paris in your running shoes or sandals, especially if you haven’t had your pedicure or cut your toenails. Yuck! Stylish, comfortable shoes (even sneaker style) exist, allowing you to walk from the Eiffel Tower to the steps of Montmartre. A brand called Superga is my favorite. Shop around and find a style and comfort suitable for you and France.

Put yourself together

There is no dispute that Paris is the fashion capital of the world. Kick up your wardrobe a notch or two. Ditch the windbreaker for a classy trench coat (it doesn’t have to be a Burberry). Rid the baggy t-shirt for a collared shirt or blouse: absolutely no sweats, instead stylish jeans. Aim for attire that fits well, and avoid baggy, oversized, or disheveled. Cross-body purses can be stylish while keeping valuables safe. A few simple items, nothing extravagant, are all you need, and they don’t have to dent your wallet.

My favorite street is Rue Saint-Honoré, especially at the intersection of Place Vendôme. Money and elegance ooze in this historic square, a must stroll, not to mention a visit to The Ritz Paris. When surrounded by such elegance, why not play the part? Buy yourself a scarf to fit in. Nordstrom has an excellent selection at all price points. You must visit Galeries Lafayette, a vast collection of choices and one of the gorgeous department stores in the world. I think nothing is more dashing than a man wearing a scarf. Now, break out the black shades and saunter like your somebody!

Paris Champagne BarTake your hat off

You are splurging for a glass of Champagne at the George V. You are visiting a high-end Brasserie. A stroll through the Louvre Museum.  I think it’s cool that you are a diehard Yankees fan, but come on, take the lid (cap) off! Show some respect for your environment. Furthermore, try some trendy headwear; I love a fedora or have some fun and wear a beret. Shop items here.

lovers in ParisDo waste away a few hours

Sitting in a sidewalk café watching the world go by is a mandatory experience in Paris. Enjoy a book or magazine and relax with a café au lait or un café américain (a watered-down espresso). I love to go in the afternoon and enjoy Un verre de vin rosé, s’il vous plaît. If by Place Vendôme, head down to the iconic Café Le Nemours at Place Colette off Rue Saint-Honoré. Put away the phone and enjoy the sights and sounds of Paris in a café. Check out my top five hotel lounges here.

relaxing in Paris with coffee

Four essential words to master

What if a French person in line at Starbucks in Los Angeles turned to you and said Bonjour! You’d say, “What”? Your first thought would be, “you’re in America; speak English!” You’re in France; learn the essential conversational words: Hello=Bonjour. Thank you=Merci.  Oui=Yes. Where is the toilette=Où est le toilette?

Say please and thank you in almost every situation. Do not be a disrespectful tourist.

If it looks like a duck…then it’s probably a duck.

Translation: Don’t look like a tourist. Attire and poise are two characteristics Parisians take seriously. Purchase a nice-looking backpack for your camera, buy a nice zipper windbreaker, and ditch the hoodie with NEW YORK screaming across the chest. So, keep your voice down; there’s no need to call across the table. Have an appreciation for all the history the city exudes. Respect the cultural environment you are in. Paris oozes sophistication and elegance, honor the history and grandeur of this magical city, and hold yourself confidently; Play the part: I belong in Paris and don’t look like a duck.

Eileen Callahan of Champagne TravelsA trip to Paris, France, is a bucket list destination for everyone. Be respectful when visiting another country/culture. Have some fun and play the part of a Parisian on your next vacation to France.

Lovers in Paris