4 Reasons to Not Be Intimidated by Paris
Paris is the one city that I have always dreamed of traveling. My fascination began when MTV’s Real World filmed there circa 2003, and it has been an undying desire ever since. But each time Micah and I considered traveling to Paris, I would always pause and suggest some place else. In January we decided on a spontaneous Paris adventure for New Year’s, and it was the most incredible trip we have taken yet. As we meandered through the streets of this beautiful city, I kept asking myself why I had been putting off this dream destination for so long. Then it finally dawned on me: I was intimidated by Paris.
Since returning, several people have asked me if it was really worth going to Paris and admitted that they would like to go, but the city also makes them nervous. After a few conversations, I was finally able to pinpoint where this intimidation stems from: America’s ridiculous stereotypes of Paris. Allow me to debunk each of them for you so you don’t make the same mistake as me and keep putting off the trip of a lifetime.
If you are American, it is likely you were encouraged to take Spanish rather than French in high school. This was the case for my husband and me at least, so we went to France barely knowing how to say bonjour. I had always heard that if you cannot speak French then Parisians will practically ignore you. This is absolutely untrue.
If you can speak English, then you will be fine in Paris. I did not encounter one person who did not know enough English to help me find or get what I needed. In fact, it was fascinating to watch people from all over the world communicating with Parisians in English--it truly has become a common language for travel.
However, it is important to learn some key phrases in French to at least be polite. Never assume anyone should know English. I would always ask in French first, “Parlez vous anglais?” They would typically respond in English, “Only a little,” and then continue on in fluent English. Many times Parisians would immediately switch over to English once they heard our accents. They seemed to appreciate and find polite humor in our pitiful attempt at speaking French. Learning a few words goes a long way in demonstrating respect for their culture.
Parisians are some of the nicest people I have ever encountered while traveling--truly. The staff working at our hotel went out of their way to give suggestions and make sure we knew exactly where we were going before we left each morning.
We were greeted with warm welcomes and smiles in every shop, restaurant, and museum we entered. Any questions we had were always answered thoughtfully and thoroughly.
A woman on the metro actually insisted I take her seat when she saw me standing--I have never, ever had this happen in any other city before.
The general feeling was not just polite, but welcoming. We didn’t encounter one person who was remotely rude or appeared to feel put-out by helping us.
We felt like a priority in every cafe or restaurant we entered. We were always immediately noticed and waiters would typically ask if we wanted our menu in French or English as they seated us.
Orders were taken swiftly and meals were prepared quickly. When we requested the check, the waiter returned with it right away.
Portion sizes were always more than enough. Each meal was served with an endless bread basket, and dinner typically consisted of an appetizer, entree, and then dessert. Each time dessert arrived, we were already bursting at the seams.
This one is partially true. Paris can be expensive, but there are definitely ways to cut cost.
Museums are not cheap, but they also are not as expensive as they typically are here in the states. Buying a museum pass helps save money if you plan to visit multiple museums over a span of at least two days.
Accommodations can also be arranged so that they are not as expensive. Decide on a location in Paris that you would like to stay, and then use online hotel search tools to find the best rated yet least expensive accommodation in that area. We stayed in an adorable hotel next to Rue Cler and a seven-minute walk to the Eiffel tower for less than $150 a night.
Food is probably the biggest investment you will make when traveling around Paris. It is expensive, but it is quality--we did not have a single bad meal. To help keep costs down, dine in cafes rather than full-scale restaurants (I couldn’t really tell the difference anyway), and have lunch in the museum cafe if you are already there or grab a falafel wrap from an outdoor stall. One night Micah and I went from shop to shop gathering bread, cheese, fruit, and wine for an incredible picnic on our hotel bed. It was a fraction of what it would have cost to go to a restaurant for dinner, and we had so much fun shopping around for our items.
Paris is even more beautiful than what I could have hoped for, and this was mostly because of the people we encountered. It is a unique culture that is refined yet accessible; it would be a wonderful place for someone to visit if they are considering traveling outside the states for the first time. There is absolutely no reason to feel intimidated by this enchanting city. Go ahead and take the leap--I promise you will not regret it.