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Ways to Blend In with the Locals in Paris

Paris is one of the most visited cities globally, attracting a large number of tourists. It can be challenging to experience the local side of the City of Lights with so many visitors around. However, to discover the Paris of the Parisians, you can take some initial steps to blend in with the locals and uncover the hidden gems of the city.

Experiencing the Parisian lifestyle is about living it yourself! From adopting the Parisian style to understanding how locals eat, communicate, and navigate around Paris, just follow the lead of the Parisians, and you'll seamlessly become part of the local scene.

When in Rome (or Paris), as they say...

Here are our top tips to be an "invisible" tourist in Paris:

1: Dress in the local style of Paris.

We know you really like your baseball caps, but maybe don't bring them this time. In Paris, people prefer to dress more stylishly, not in clothes you wear for lounging (like yoga pants or sweats, which are for the gym!). Paris is known for its unique fashion, where individuals express themselves, but it's also a city with a lot of classic, stylish clothing. Instead of always wearing the latest trends, Parisians choose timeless pieces that never go out of style. If you want to dress like the locals in Paris, stick to neutral colors like black, grey, beige, navy, and maybe olive green if you're feeling adventurous - but mainly in winter. Brighter colors are more common in the warmer months. If you happen to be in Paris on the first warm day of the year, you'll see everyone bringing out their colorful summer clothes! So, when packing for Paris, think stylish yet practical, and choose timeless classics—leave the sweatpants and fanny packs at home!

2: Eat the way Parisians do.

Thinking about French cuisine might make your mouth water, but like everyone else, Parisians don't dine in five-star restaurants every day. While it's nice to visit a restaurant or two in Paris to savor true French gastronomy (the French take great pride in their food!), it's also enjoyable to step back and eat like a local. To blend in with Parisians, avoid the restaurants near major tourist attractions and instead seek out some decadent local everyday delights.

When you visit a new city, eating like a local is one of the best ways to understand the city and the daily life of its residents. In Paris, many neighborhoods have markets a few days a week, filled with fresh produce, locally made cheese and meats, and delicious street food. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, and also try an authentic meal prepared on the spot that can taste just as good, if not better, than a fancy restaurant meal. This is not only a great way to eat well on a budget but also to experience the local variety available. Just imagine a freshly baked baguette topped with locally produced honey and goat cheese, followed by ripe peaches for dessert. That's truly Parisian!

3: Learning the manners of eating in France.

If you decide to indulge in dining out in Paris, it's important to be familiar with French dining etiquette. The French value politeness and follow some unspoken table manners that are best observed if you want to be taken for a Parisian. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Keep your hands on the table—always. It might be challenging to remember, but avoid resting your hands on your lap. If your hands aren't visible, it could be considered rude.

  2. Wait until everybody at your table has been served their meal and/or drink before you start eating. Once everything is set, begin with a "Bon Appétit!" before taking the first bite.

  3. French waiters are generally not in a hurry for you to leave the table, unlike in some English-speaking countries. They will typically leave you in peace and won't bring the check until you indicate you're ready. If you're in a rush and would like your check, it's better to ask or go directly to the counter to pay! L'addition, s'il vous plaît!

  4. The same goes for tipping. Parisian diners usually leave a few euros as a thank you for exceptional service. Unlike in North American countries, gratuity is not obligatory, as restaurant serving staff receive regular salaries and aren't dependent on your 20%.

4: Take the Paris Metro.

Paris boasts an excellent public transportation system, including 14 metro lines and commuter rails for longer distances. There's really no need to take a taxi when the metro system can easily get you where you need to go—a choice frequently made by Parisians! With metros running every 2-6 minutes, you'll experience minimal waiting times, and the farthest you'll have to walk to reach a metro station in Paris is just a few minutes. Surprisingly, the metro often gets you to your destination faster than a car due to traffic in the narrow Parisian streets! Riding the metro in Paris is also an excellent opportunity to people-watch and observe Parisians in their daily lives. It's efficient, cost-effective, and eco-friendly, so go ahead and hop on the metro in Paris to blend in with the locals.

Paris metro tickets can be bought individually or in packs of ten. If you're staying in Paris for at least a full week, you can also purchase an unlimited weekly or monthly pass; just visit any English-friendly ticketing machine upon entry.

5: Speak softly in Paris, just a bit.

To better fit in with the Parisians, consider being a tad more mindful of noise levels. When in public spaces like the metro or walking through the streets, try not to speak too loudly or engage in conversations that involve shouting across open areas. Save your phone calls for when you're out of the metro. Adopt a Parisian mindset—elegant and discreet—especially in shared public spaces. English speakers are sometimes seen as loud and boisterous in France, so avoid reinforcing such stereotypes! A bit of quietness can go a long way when aiming to blend in with the locals in Paris.

6: Explore Paris on foot instead.

Paris is a very walkable city; you can reach almost any destination on foot. If your destination isn't too far away, walking can be a more enjoyable way to explore the city than taking the metro. It allows you to see different parts of the city, unlike the dark underground tunnels seen through metro windows. If you happen to get lost, you can embrace being fashionably late à la parisienne, and who knows what Parisian treasures you might discover along the way! Locals in Paris are accustomed to walking quite a bit, evident in their sensible footwear choices. Stiletto heels are typically reserved for Paris Fashion Week runways, and flip-flops are better suited for the beach. Think like a Parisian and go for comfortable, classic footwear that allows you to walk with ease.

7: Embrace the French art of flâner.

Got some free time to spare in Paris? Perfect! It's time for a perfectly Parisian activity. The word "flâner" in French simply means to take a leisurely stroll, explore, and discover with no particular agenda. Choose a seat on a terrace, enjoy a coffee, and watch people passing by. Alternatively, peek into a church or park just to uncover hidden treasures. Look around and notice how many Parisians are reading a book or simply people-watching, taking their time to savor the day. Take a cue from them and see where time takes you; it's during afternoons like this that you're likely to make the most interesting discoveries, we promise!

8: Leave the large folding map behind, or switch to a digital one.

Maps can be tempting in Paris, especially when tourism offices generously hand you ten just in case you lose the first nine. However, maps can quickly draw attention to you, making it obvious you're not a local. If you want to explore Paris like a native, ditch the tourist map and consider upgrading to a pocket guide if you're not quite ready to start exploring without one.

A Parisian favorite? The Citymapper app is a lifesaver, used daily by locals to navigate the city. It shows you the best routes for walking, biking, taking the metro and buses, and even estimates Uber rides. Concerned about international phone service? Plans in Europe are significantly cheaper than those in North America. You can get enough data to last you a few weeks for five to ten euros, allowing you to use all your favorite apps on your phone to navigate the city like a local.

9: Adhere to Paris Metro Manners: Stick to the right!

Stand on the right side of the escalator—just do it! This advice applies not only to Paris but to many big cities. If you want to navigate the City of Lights like a true local, especially during rush hour, this is the one tip to remember. Pedestrian traffic in metros and malls can get congested, and escalators are sometimes part of the reason. That's why the system of escalator "sides" has been created. How does it work? If you're not in a hurry and want to ride the escalator in peace, stand to the right. This leaves the left side open for those in a hurry who need to get through.

Another tip? When a metro train arrives, make sure to stand aside and allow people to exit the train before you push through to enter. A bit of metro manners goes a long way, and everyone's happy!

10: Learn some French basics.

French can be an intimidating language. We're not telling you to become fluent, but simply learning a few helpful phrases and vocabulary can go a long way in making your Paris experience go smoothly. The French are very proud of their language and heritage. Parisians appreciate every attempt to learn their language and will immediately try their best to help you if you are in need of anything. Learning the language is part of learning the culture behind it, and when traveling, knowing just a few words is a great way to better appreciate that culture with meaningful interactions. To get you started:

  • Hello [Bonjour]

  • Good evening [Bonsoir]

  • Have a good day [Bonne Journée]

  • Have a good evening [Bonne soirée]

  • Thank you [Merci]

  • Excuse me [Excusez-moi, pardon]

  • Do you speak English? [Parlez-vous anglais?]

So there you have it, just a few things to think of when traveling to Paris to get a taste of local life and blend in with the Parisians. Even the smallest of things can go a long way to making the most of your time in Paris. In one of the most visited cities in the world, it's hard to get a taste of local everyday life. Our best advice is always to do as the locals do, from shopping to eating, to conversing and going out, get the most of your Paris experience by being a true Parisian yourself!


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