Oh, Paris! To walk your streets, to taste your food, to visit all the places! If you’re traveling there and you want to experience Paris like a local, we’ve got some tips for you. The first thing is confidence, the rest will follow. Read these 10 tips to enjoy Paris like a local and start packing for your trip.
1. Learn French phrases
This is basic everywhere, but in Paris it will get you really far. If you really want to experience Paris like a local, learn some basic French phrases. Never start a conversation in English, always use a bonjour (good morning) or bonsoir (good evening). If you’re shopping or just window shopping, always greet the shopkeepers and remember to say au revoir (goodbye) or merci (thank you).
Don’t be afraid of not having the right accent, locals always appreciate when you make an effort.
2. La Bise
La Bise is a light kiss on each cheek, you’ll feel 30% more Parisian just by doing it. This normally happens between women but men can also greet you like that if you’re a woman. Coming from Latin America, I’m used to hugs and kisses even if you’re meeting someone for the first time. Parisians aren’t into hugs (learned that the awkward way). So, avoid hugs when a French person isn’t giving you one in the first place. Also important, let the Parisian person you’re greeting take the lead in La Bise.
Something you’ll notice as soon as you start walking the streets of Paris is how effortlessly stylish is everyone. They somehow look as if they rolled out of bed but at the same time they look so chic… I don’t get it, I’ve never had that kind of style! A few basics you can consider to look more like a local in Paris are:
- Use a simple palette in your outfits
- Go for neutral colors
- Embrace the use of scarfs
- Opt for stylish sneakers or flats, for women
- Prefer clothes that don’t show labels
- Never, ever wear berets
- The only acceptable way to use a beret.
4. Hide your maps and travel guides
Do people still use those? Apparently, yes. It’s really easy to spot a tourist if they are carrying maps or travel guides. Be more tech-savvy and use your smartphone. There are a lot of apps that you can download that will help you to explore Paris like a local. Everybody uses their smartphone so it won’t be weird if you do too. Google Maps and Citymapper are always useful.
- Also, hide your selfie sticks
5. Have a plan on where to go
And I’m not speaking just about landmarks, I’m also talking about the places you’ll go to eat and drink. You can be as flexible as you want with your plan but have a general idea of where you can enjoy local experiences in Paris. Don’t lose time walking mindlessly and looking for a place to have something to eat. Check beforehand all your options and plan accordingly. A good idea is to save those places on Google Maps.
6. Avoid places near landmarks or famous places
And speaking about food, avoid the places that are near important places. Most of the times, they will be crowded and full of tourists. If you’re looking for a more local experience in Paris, walk away from said places. You will find places that the locals hang out in and you’ll also get a fair price for the food or drinks. Something we’ve learned is that you can also ask your hosts or people you trust (that are locals) where do they hang out. Not the places that they’d recommend, but the places they go to. Nothing will get more local than that.
7. Don’t walk without aim
The first time I traveled alone I remember going out in the streets and not knowing where I was going. It was a time in which smartphones weren’t that common so I had to check the map in my accommodation and then go out with just an idea of where I was going in my mind but not really sure of how it would look like in real life. Many times I got lost but the important thing is that I tried not to look lost, following the people around me.
As in all big cities, if you look lost people may know you’re not a local. Paris is not an exception. Try to walk at the same pace
Super important tip: If you’re not sure where you’re going, stick to the right, especially in the Métro, which leads us to the next tip.
8. Use public transportation or walk around
Paris is a walkable city, many landmarks are really close to each other. Walking is a great way to truly enjoy the vibe of Paris, to see the people, and to window shop in your way to your destination. Also, if you want to save time and experience Paris like a local, you can always use public transportation. Paris has a great transportation system so you won’t have problems getting around in it. Read this guide to know how to use public transportation in Paris.
- Using the Métro is one of the ways in which you can get around Paris like a local.
9. Keep a low volume
I’m from Mexico so we’re super loud, we’re always screaming, laughing out loud (for real) and making a lot of noise. Don’t be that person when you’re in Paris, especially if you’re using public transportation. This doesn’t mean that you should stop having fun, just keep the noise down.
10. Know when to have your meals
If you want to eat something in less touristy places, know that the time you should go to is between noon and 2 pm. Most of those places will be closed at 3 pm so take that into account when planning your activities of the day. Of course, you can find open places but they will be the kind of places locals don’t visit. Remember this applies in almost all of France too.
11. Really enjoy your meals
Listen, I understand you may have tight schedules, especially if you’re visiting Paris just for some days. But, if you really want to experience Paris like a local, you must take your time to enjoy your meals! The City of Lights has one of the best cuisines in the world. Enjoy every bite, don’t rush it! Also, check these 14 foods you have to try in Paris (it includes all the places you can visit to have them).
Remember to also read our guide on best cheap eats in Paris and best vegetarian restaurants in Paris.
12. Get a true Parisian coffee
There are normal cafés and specialty coffees. Depending on what you like, you can visit either of those. What’s important here is that you ask for what a true Parisian would have: nothing with extra flavors and simple. A little guide you can use when ordering coffee (check the full guide here):
- Café/Espresso: a shot of espresso, dark and bitter. It can also be called Café Noir or Express
- Café Allongé: espresso but diluted with water, in case you’re not into super strong coffee
- Double espresso
- Filtré: people also call it as café américain, it’s filtered coffee
- Noisette: an espresso with cream
Also important, you can ask for your coffee sur place (to drink in the shop) or à emporter (to go).
Now you’re ready to enjoy Paris like a local! Do you have more tips on how to look local in Paris? Let us know in the comments and remember you can always download Talk Travel App to get local tips on Paris.
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