French Travel Tips


I recently came across an online article that talked about 11 French Travel Tips for visiting America. It discusses 11 common sentiments expressed on French travel websites given by French people for other French people traveling to America. Although the article is meant to be comical, some valuable travel lessons can be learned by taking these tips and turning them around.

Here are my “11 Travel Tips for Americans Visiting France Based off of Travel Tips For French Visitors to America”

1. Don’t be alarmed by French greetings.

While you might be used to the American handshake, French people normally lend in to ‘faire la bise’ when greeting each other. This is a series of kisses on alternating cheeks (the number of kisses depends on the region!). There is no standard side to start the process, just follow the lead of your French counterpart to know which side to aim for first! In some business settings, a handshake might also be appropriate, but when in doubt, follow someone else’s lead.

2. Do not take offense if people are not as helpful.

In the United States it is not uncommon to see strangers rushing to help a pedestrian who has lost control of their groceries, or who has tripped and fallen over a curb. Although it may seem like second nature to help those in need, this is not the typical reaction by French people. If you drop a stack of books and passersby don’t lend you anything but a glance, it is not because they are rude, it’s simply just not as large a part of their culture.

3. Be aware of different eating habits.

In France, it is not only uncommon to ask to change an item on the menu (for example asking for something without sauce, or with extra cheese), but it can also be considered rude. A French chef takes great pride in their skills and to ask to change anything is to imply that you know better than them. Additionally, the French don’t really take home leftovers. On the one hand portion sizes are smaller than the typical American serving, but even if you have food left over it might be considered unusual or just unnecessarily thrifty to try to take home the extra food. Finally, it is not typical to carry around drinks and food in public. While American students might be acclimated to taking coffee to class, this is just not done in France.

4. Attitudes toward children are different.

The French don’t find it at all strange to let their children take public transportation alone, or to leave a child by itself while running a quick errand. While this might appear alarming to Americans, French children are often trusted to be more independent at a younger age. Also, it is less appropriate to fawn over children and animals. In fact, it is much better to just not acknowledge their presence. Smiling and waving at a child can come off as suspicious to a French parent who is not used to this type of behavior.

5. Crosswalk signs are different.

Be prepared to encounter different crosswalk signs and indicators than at home. Although they may vary by region, as a rule just be aware of what is going on around you before choosing to cross the street!

6. Keep an eye on your belongings.

Although this is a good tip for anytime you’re traveling to a new area and might stand out as a tourist, the mere fact that French people expressed disbelief at how trustworthy the people around them appeared to be should indicate a little more suspicion may be necessary in France.

7. The plumbing might be different.

Just because something is different doesn’t make it bad. Toilets seem to trickle in comparison to the ‘violent flushing’ of American toilets. Bidets are not uncommon, and while most showerheads in the States are fixed on the wall, you may encounter handheld showerheads more often in France.

8. Praise is not common for every day feats.

While you might receive an award for good attendance at school or participation in a sport in the United States, don’t expect praise and recognition for average work in France. There is not the same value given to things you are expected to do- only those who truly go above and beyond get recognized. In addition, not everything is as ‘inspiring’ as it is in America. Main characters might never face conflict in a movie, and not all stories have inspiring messages or happy endings.

9. Pharmacies are different.

Don’t be alarmed by different medications (instead of pills you might receive a dissolvable powder or a liquid), and waiting times are much less than in the United States.

10. Bathrooms are also different.

Bathroom stalls in France offer more privacy, with walls often reaching all the way from the floor to the ceiling. Unfortunately, they might not always have toilet seats, even in women’s restrooms, and ‘Turkish toilets’ (essentially a hole in the ground) can still be found throughout France

11. Cutting in line is normal.

Again, this is not because the French are rude, it’s just part of the culture! Lines are not always well formed whether it’s waiting for a movie ticket or for a seat on a bus. Don’t be alarmed by people slipping in front of you, or a chaotic rush for the front once the doors have been opened

Aimee is a French & International Studies Major and Education Abroad Peer Ambassador at the University of Kentucky. Aimee has participated in three education abroad programs: a winter, UK Sponsored program in India, a summer program in Paris, France with KIIS, and a semester in Grenoble, France with partner CEA.

(To find the original article visit this link: