Traveling to a new country for the first time can be quite intimidating. Even if you’ve been to a certain city before it’s always good to remember some basics that will help you get through your stay. I’ve included many do’s and don’ts about visiting Paris for the first time and understanding the culture in order to fit in as best as possible.
These are all things that I know I would have liked to know first coming to Paris and preparing for my study abroad trip. Personally, I had never traveled to Europe so many of the things I encountered were completely new to me. There are different social expectations and ways of being that are expected when going to a new country. It’s also good to know basic do’s and don’ts that will be helpful just in your day to day adventures around the city.
- Blend in, fit in! You will see how Parisians act in different situations and try to do similar things.
- Wear neutral colors. Parisians rarely wear outfits that are bright and stand out.
- Try to speak French even if it’s just a little. It’s their language and they’re PROUD of it. Don’t forget you are in their city and country!
- Be open minded. This is something to follow in your everyday life but especially while traveling to new countries.
- Take time to take in the art all around you. There is so much to be taken in from this city that you see art almost everywhere you go.
- Be proud of who YOU are and where YOU come from but don’t be obnoxious about it
- Explore cafes, restaurants, patisseries, and boulangeries – you never know what you’ll find and like!
- Try escargot – it’s a MUST while in Paris!
- Also try onion soup (it’s not French onion soup in France).
- Be prepared for all the stairs, example: 385 steps to the top of Notre Dame.
- Take time to observe those around you. You can learn so much from everyone and everything you see.
- Take in the culture, you’re in a new country that’s very different from the U.S.
- HAVE FUN.
- Don’t talk on the metro especially during the morning hours. Many people are just quiet and reading books or on their phones.
- Don’t smile at others/make eye contact with random strangers. Although this is a polite thing to do in the U.S. it is taken very differently in France and is seen more as a flirtation method.
- Don’t be loud and obnoxious. Many times others will be very close to you like on the metro and it’s just rude.
- Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, a city you’ve never been to before is the best place to do it in.
- Don’t eat at McDonald’s, Burger King, or any other fast food chain place. You can get that anytime you’re at home.
- Don’t look like you can’t handle the city your first couple of days. Others will be able to tell you’re a tourist. Confidence is key!
- Don’t be afraid to try the stinky cheeses, they’re surprisingly good! You never know what you’ll like if you don’t try them.
- Don’t stay in your room/apartment GO EXPLORE.
- Don’t forget an umbrella during the winter months. You never know when it’s going to rain.
- Don’t panic if you get on the wrong metro, go in the wrong direction, or miss your stop. There’s always another way to get where you want to go.
Every Do and Don’t that I have mentioned are all things that will definitely help you feel comfortable and be able to assimilate to the culture better. The biggest piece of advice I can give it to just have fun, explore, and try new things!