No matter where you’re from, you’ve probably received the same image of France. This is the world’s capital of cosmopolitanism, food, art, fashion, pretty much anything artsy and sophisticated! However, when a lot of unprepared tourists finally decide to visit it, they get a pretty different impression! Like any new country, you need to be aware of certain nuances and details to have the best trip possible.
Here are a few things I wish someone had told me!
First of all, Paris isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even in such a culturally rich country, Paris stands out as a tourist hotspot. However, once you get there, you’ll find something pretty different to the paradise you were expecting. The city is extremely crowded, especially in the summer. Transport can be a real headache, whether you rent a car or use the metro. Furthermore, tourists stick out like a sore thumb, and are often the target for crimes. I still recommend taking a day trip to Paris to see the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and so on. Just don’t make it the centre of your visit. Luxury family villas in rural spots are much more hospitable and affordable than inner-city hotels.
Secondly, it’s a good idea to learn some French, especially if you’re going to be in a rural area. Some of your friends may have waved this idea away, and told you that pretty much everyone in Europe speaks fluent English. This may be true in countries like Germany and Spain, but the culture in France is totally different. Even if they can speak English, it’s a pretty common attitude out there that tourists should be putting in more effort. No one expects you to speak like a native, but learning a few common phrases can be exceptionally helpful. Pretty often, they’ll appreciate the effort, pick up on your broken pronunciation, and reply in perfect English. Jump straight to English though, and you may get a different reaction!
Finally, don’t overeat. This is general life advice I suppose, but it’s still certainly something to keep in mind when you’re in the foodie capital of the world. As soon as you get off the plane, you’ll be surrounded by all kinds of appetising new dishes that you’ll want to try. Believe me, the dinners are always the highlight. If you gorge yourself during the day though, you’ll end up with little appetite and a very stretched budget. I recommend skipping breakfast while you’re out there, and instead grabbing a croissant and an espresso from a local bakery. Once you try both of these in France, you’ll never look at them in the same way again! If you want to get the full, authentic experience, you may even want to set aside a separate budget for eating out. We may have some things wrong, but the food in France is really something else. As you can imagine though, the best restaurants aren’t cheap!
Keep these points in mind when you’re planning your trip to France, and you’re sure to have a wonderful time!