For years, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have come to Olivier Knox — a Frenchman turned Chief Washington Correspondent for Yahoo News — for advice about Paris. Yahoo Travel may have already briefed you on how to not look like an idiot in Paris, but some lessons are worth learning twice.
Here’s his tricks that even the best-prepared Americans should brush up on:
Restaurant reservations: make them when you can.
Don’t go to Paris in August. Everyone is on vacation, restaurants are closed, the city is steaming, and you will be, too, when you realize all you’re missing out on.
Paris is a big city. Big-city rules apply. Making eye contact with strangers, smiling at them, saying “Hello” is not encouraged in Paris any more than it is encouraged in New York City. If you’re a woman and you smile at a man, he will assume that you are… courting. And that’s the charitable interpretation. BUT, there’s one big caveat…
Say hello to store clerks. When you walk into thatboulangerie to buy the éclairs that you and your kids will devour on one of the green benches in the Jardin du Luxembourg, don’t order immediately. First, greet the person behind the register. “Bonjour Monsieur” or “Bonjour Madame” or even a “Good morning sir/ma’am” establishes that you are a polite American familiar with the local culture and not like that one hyena who refused to put out his cigar in a church until someone asked him in English (Yup. True story). If there’s a crowd, they may prompt you with an “et pour Monsieur/Madame.” But the French think it’s rude to define personal interaction solely on the basis of a financial “transaction. . . .”