What to Expect as a Tourist in France

France. The most visited country in the world. The land of romance, smelly cheese, and good wine. A country where it is so easy to fall head over heals in love with the way locals talk. After all, what could be sexier than a French person saying, well, just about anything. It doesn’t matter what they’re trying to transmit, as all they have to do to conquer you is open their mouth and pronounce a couple of words, preferably with “r”s in them. And still…

All French People Assume the Entire Planet Speaks Their Language

 jumpe/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
jumpe/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yes, they are the proud speakers of one of the sexiest languages on Earth. This does not mean, however, that everyone knows how to speak it. A dialogue with a French person goes like this: “Excuse me, do you speak English?” – “Oui”. They sound like they do barbarians a huge favour by allowing them to express their queries in another language. Have I mentioned how you talk in English and they reply in French? It’s not like they don’t know they language, for they are very quick to understand what do you mean in your vulgar English. On the other hand, their attitude changes completely when you make an effort and try to mumble something in French. They smile down at you and suddenly seem to think, why yes, I should give this poor unfortunate non-native speaker a chance. You get points for trying, so if you can actually say three coherent words in French, go for it. At least you will not feel like a tolerated bastard who’s coming from a place where culture hasn’t reached yet. Which takes us to the next point.

Nothing in the World Even Remotely Compares to the Achievements of Great France

The French people’s attitude about the world can be resumed like this: nothing could have ever been possible if France hadn’t played a part in it. Have the allies won the Second World War? Yes, but only because they disembarked on a French beach. You go to a French military museum and see a proud display of French military paraphernalia as well as short movies and other stuff about the bravery of the French soldiers. Hello? Name a major French military victory, quickly. Yeah, I thought so. They had that tiny Napoleon guy who tried to conquer Europe, most probably because he was suffering from a sort of little man complex, and they still go on about how France once ruled the continent. And don’t get me started on literature, fine arts, or philosophy. If something of value is not French, they will find some French roots to it pronto. The only other nation that thinks so highly of themselves are the Greeks, but at least those come across as funny, not smug.

French Waiters Will Make You Think Twice Before Stopping for Another Café Latte

dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not sure if this is really an issue other people have noticed, but I think French waiters are possibly the rudest and most obnoxious species in Europe. You feel like they’re doing you a huge favour bringing you some food or a cup of latte. They will make you feel out of place every time, especially if they sense you are a foreigner. And trust, me, they will, sometimes even before you mutter your first “Excuse me”. It’s like they have a special radar for anything that might not be French. A waitress in a café somewhere near Place des Vosges took our order and disappeared into thin air. It was early, the café was almost empty, and yet I had to chase her for 20 minutes. In a café in La Rochelle, a waiter did not want to bring us more sugar even though we said the word multiple times, including in French. He simply raised his shoulders with a smug grim on his face and left. It was a puzzling moment, indeed.

Tourist Traps Every Step of the Way

DeusXFlorida/Flickr
DeusXFlorida/Flickr

While I understand the desire to make easy money off the millions of tourists who come every year to see the wonders of France, 3 euros for a 0.5 l bottle of water seems a bit excessive. This is what they were asking at the cafeteria of Musee D’Orsay and in most places around Louvre. As we like to stay hydrated when travelling, we had to find an alternative. The advice is to go on some of the secondary streets in the area, no matter how touristy it might be, until you find a supermarket. We found a small one about 300 m from the Louvre Carousel and bought our water at a decent price, just under 1 euro for 1.5 litres. We got burnt with the food, though, mostly because we were too hungry to walk after a few hours inside the Louvre. There are a couple of brasseries right in front of the museum, which are best to be avoided. We paid 3.5 euros for a crepe with Nutella and 5.5 euros for a sandwich that was not only stale, but also very empty. It seems that in France, the definition of a sandwich is some bread with a minuscule piece of meat and some tomato slices. No sauce, no lettuce, no anything. I was too disappointed to take a picture, though.

In France, Flushing the Toilet is Optional

At first, I thought it was just my luck. After the first day, it began to be quite disturbing. Every bloody toilet I went in, there was a surprise inside the bowl. I saw women simply walking out and going out without flushing and even without washing their hands. In the six days I spent in Paris, there were at least two such marvellous occurrences. It happened at Louvre, at the airport, and in a couple of food establishments. I’ve never seen anything of the sort before, but it is something I didn’t expect to happen on a regular basis in freaking Paris.

Quite Often You’ll Feel Like an Unwanted Guest

The French finance minister had a revelation these weeks and urged his compatriots to stop being so rude to tourists. If a French guy sees it, it’s really bad, I might add. Even though you often cannot put a finger on it, a trip to France will make you feel like the spinster aunt who shows up for Christmas dinner uninvited. The attitude of people who work in what should be hospitality had the French heard of the concept is that they want to get your money and get rid of you through the back door. They do this charmingly though, otherwise I couldn’t explain why I still want to go to other places in France.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “What to Expect as a Tourist in France

  1. You summed it up well. The tourist experience in France is not a great one, but they tell the same stories about London. And let’s be fair we think everyone speaks English, wherever we go.
    Good post though, a different look at the tourist view.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. We had a similar experience in Calais re the customer services. We went to a restaurant who is in the top 5 on TripAdvisor and we just wait there for 20 minutes:). Finally the waiter came and the food came after another 40 minutes:). After we finish to eat we dared to ask for a take away tray and in that moment the waiter looked at us like we are some kind of freaks. He put our food in aluminium foil( there was a soup as well..).We just don’t like wasted food and we thought that everyone thinks like us, but not in France. They have a huge problem as well if you dare to ask for sugar or milk, even if you are willing to pay extra money for them. They are very arrogant indeed and very lazy. We will think twice if we will go to visit Paris.

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    • You HAVE to go to Paris at least once in your lifetime, in my opinion. Just ignore the customer service and enjoy the sights. Eating from the supermarket is highly, highly recommended 🙂

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  3. In all fairness, every city in the world has its tourist traps, smug waiters and bad food. I was ignored at Musée d’Orsay by the lady in the ticket booth, charged dubble for my second expresso b/c I was a tourist and ignored in the metro when I asked a question ( in French) at customer service b/c the young man was on his cell phone! Still Paris remains my favorite city and my favorite language! I do agree with you,,,,,there are so many more places to visit in France. I would love to visit Aix-in-Provence or Lyon!~ Vive la France!

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