Blog post: written by Meghana
As an American student now abroad, I found a lack of support before I took off to Paris.
There was nothing on the internet that could really help me understand how to conduct myself and keep myself safe while living “La vie Parisienne.” So, for all who struggled like me, here’s the short list of everything you should consider before jet setting to France.
1. Don’t talk to strangers. You may think stranger danger is a childish concept, or just for kids, but it’s in full force in Paris. Except for the chance encounter, it is the norm to avoid those around you, especially on public transportation. Most people that will attempt to talk to you are probably running some sort of scam, trying to distract you or pressure you into buying something. You are especially susceptible to this if you dress like an American, which takes me to my next point.
2. Dress like a Parisian. Not only does it show respect to the French culture by observing the unspoken dress code and its rules, but it helps you avoid being identified as an American, and being targeted by scammers and pickpocketers.
Some fashion tips:
♥ Don’t wear shorts. Yes, there are some nicer shorts that you can get away with wearing, but no denim shorts.
♥ No athleisure. You can dress up leggings, but no one walks around in athletic sets. No, not even if they’re lululemon. Athletic clothes are reserved for runners, those traveling to and from the gym, and those at the gym. You won’t really see activewear anywhere else.
♥ Graphic tees can be dressed up, but it should be intentionally used, not that t-shirt you got from summer camp in 8th grade.
♥ No sweatpants or pajamas outside. It’s considered a sign of respect to dress for the occasion, and Parisians are always dressed to impress. These clothes are considered to be worn strictly inside the home.
♥ Buy a pair of linen pants or a flowy skirt that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. These will quickly become a wardrobe staple, because of their lightweight material, flexibility, and universal acceptance.
3. Begin and end your conversations in French. It is a sign of respect to attempt to converse in the native language of the country you are in. This is especially true in France, where there are people that will ignore tourists, or even pretend not to understand them, because of the way they had been talked to. This is especially important if you want to avoid being the stereotypical “obnoxious American tourist.”
Some simple phrases that you can use:
♥ Bonjour: Hello
♥ Salut: Hello (more casual)
♥ Au Revoir: Goodbye
♥ Bonsoir: Good evening
♥ Tu parles/ Vous parlez anglais?: Do you speak English? (Informal/Formal)
♥ Excusez-moi: Excuse me (to get someone’s attention)
♥ Pardon: Excuse me (asking someone to move)
4. Be aware of your surroundings. Most thefts, scams, and tourists getting lost have one thing in common. They stopped paying attention at some point. This is especially important when you are in large, crowded tourist areas, and on any mode of transportation, especially the metro. Pickpockets capitalize on people not securing their belongings within a closed purse or bag, and leaving it in their pockets, or other opened areas, without paying attention to those around them as well as their personal items. The best way to avoid losing yourself, your belongings, or those you are with is to pay attention to where you are, what you’re doing, and who is around you. Avoid wearing headphones in unknown places, and make a plan with others for what to do in case of emergency.