1. You complain about the price of coffee.
It’s one of the best-kept secrets among Parisian cafés: The price of coffee depends entirely on where it’s consumed. Is the coffee worth more because you’re enjoying it with the sun on your face? You’re damn right it is. Think of the premium as a rental fee. You own that quaint little table for as long as your ass occupies the equally adorable wicker chair.
2. You smile at strangers on the street.
By North American standards, a smile is a simple act of complicity. In Paris, it’s a surefire way to be labeled “crazy.”
The French aren’t known for their friendliness, their affections typically reserved for their inner circle. In fact, the city of Paris recently hired “smile ambassadors” to put tourists at ease. But if you’re feeling brave, flash a smile at the next passerby. I promise she’ll clutch her handbag a little tighter.
3. You’ve muttered the phrase “Oh, any wine will do.”
The moment these words leave your lips, utensils clatter to the floor, glasses shatter, other diners turn to stare. You have made the ultimate faux pas.
Wine is the subject of passionate debate in France, and complete ignorance is simply not acceptable. Learn the basics and develop a preference for Sancerre, Bourgogne, anything but the “new Beaujolais,” which is a nationwide joke.
4. You’ve asked a waiter for a “map of the desert” instead of the dessert menu.
Ah, pronunciation. Just when you think you’ve mastered a language, the slightest slip of the tongue can give you away. That pesky double s is the difference between “lowering” and “f@#king.” And let’s not forget ou versus u or ue.
Intended phrase: “I’m running late, can you nab us a spot if the lineup is huge?” Actual phrase: “I’m running late, do you mind waiting in the enormous ass?”
5. You take the stairs in the Abbesses metro stop.
You’re trying to fit in, easily scaling the stairs throughout the city, just like the Parisians. Good for you! Except Abbesses is located 118 feet below ground, thanks to the hilly terrain of Montmartre. While Parisians are a particularly svelte species, even they have limits. Take the elevator. It comes every 30 seconds.
6. You marvel at the lack of child-friendly activities.
The social life of a Parisian child mirrors that of their parents. They spend their weekends at sexually explicit art exhibits, playing with neighborhood dogs at the park, or amusing themselves at wine bars while the adults catch up.
Children understand from a young age that it’s the grownups who call the shots in this world. A different approach to parenting, no doubt, but I have yet to witness a single supermarket meltdown.
7. You fail to say “hello” upon entering a boutique.
A simple “Bonjour, madame/monsieur” is not only customary, it’s essential. Failure to greet the owner or salesperson is the epitome of rudeness. Not that this will guarantee great service — it won’t. But it ensures you don’t become the subject of bitchy gossip amongst the staff once you’ve left.
8. You over-tip service staff.
Waiters, hairdressers, and taxi drivers — all of these professionals earn a livable wage in Paris, and more often than not a service charge has already been added to the bill. If the service is particularly good, round up to the next euro or two. Otherwise, you’ve already paid your way.
9. You’re dressed as though you’ve come from the gym.
Avoid the following at all costs: flip-flops, fanny packs (really?!), functional sneakers, sweatpants, spandex of any kind. Parisians are famous for their effortless style, and while you may never achieve such fashionable heights, do attempt to blend in. It will minimize your risk of becoming a target for pickpockets.
10. You’re capable of patiently waiting in line.
If there’s one universal truth about this city, it’s that Parisians cannot and do not queue. Their time is infinitely more valuable than yours. They will charge the metro doors before others can exit, unapologetically cut the line at the pharmacy, and in the case of administrative buildings, form a throbbing mass of bodies that can only be contained by police.
Either learn to play the game or accept the wait. There is no middle ground.
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