Our behavior has a direct impact on our own happiness and how we’re perceived — and the great thing is that we’re 100% in control of our own reactions to things (including snafus while traveling). When en vacances, it’s even more important to be self-aware enough to see outside of our own little bubble, but sometimes we’re jetlagged, having a bad day or are upset about something. In other cases, we just don’t know any better, and that can contribute to having a bad experience abroad.
If you do all of these things I mention in this post, whether you’re just passing through or living here, you’ll absolutely have a bad experience in France.
How to have a bad experience in France — guaranteed!
I often hear tales from people who have visited France who LOVED it and had a great time. But others will tell me how bad their trip was, how the French were rude, how no one spoke English and how they’ll never return to France. It’s true that sometimes we have bad luck and things just don’t work out. Not every place is for everyone and that’s totally OK. I’ve been to places I didn’t really like. But more often than not, our own actions play a role in how things happen. We contribute to our problems more than we’d like to think.
If you want to have a bad experience in France (or anywhere new), do these 5 things:
Expect everything to be exactly like it is at home.
Some people like to experience new sights and cultures when traveling abroad and others want their experience to mirror exactly what they’d find at home. The latter group is often disappointed because it’s just not possible (thankfully) for every place to be just like it is in America. The hospitality industry does a fabulous job at catering to their foreign clients’ needs, but sometimes it’s a little over the top. When you vacation in France, expect things to look and sound French. It’s not the United States and things are going to be different — some will delight you and others will leave you scratching your head. Regardless, just roll with it… which leads me to my next point.
Be too rigid in your ways.
If you’re extremely close-minded and rigid in your ways, you’ll definitely have a bad experience in France. Little things here and there will throw a wrench in your plans but take them for what they are — minor annoyances. Be flexible if your favorite restaurant is closed because the owner is on vacation for the entire month of August and find a new place to eat. There’s no shortage of things to see or do in France, so keep an open mind (that goes double with food)!
Speak English without attempting a few words in French.
I’ve written about this before. Attempting a little French even if you know only 5 words is better than starting out directly in English. No one expects tourists to be fluent but it’s a matter of respecting the French culture. Bonjour, not hello, OK? And if you do speak English to someone, be humble about it and speak slowly! Otherwise, you’ll absolutely have a bad experience in France and probably leave thinking the French are rude (when it’s you speaking a foreign language in their country and expecting them to understand).
Be careless with your belongings.
Keep your bags secure and never let them get out of sight. Don’t flash your electronics around. Common sense goes a long way, so don’t let the excitement of the moment (or the Champagne) cloud your judgment. Thieves prey on tourists in every large city and French cities are no exception. Trying to file a police report will waste your whole day and expose you to a side of the French bureaucracy you probably don’t want to see. I personally love Pacsafe’s products for keeping your things secure.
Tell your taxi driver you love Uber.
This is a major no-no in Paris. Taxi drivers and Uber drivers had a major tiff earlier this summer when Uber started invading on the city’s turf. You see, in Paris a taxi driver license to operate legally is extremely expensive (upwards of $100k) and Uber drivers aren’t required to get one at all since they operate as taxi drivers for hire. The conflict escalated and property was damaged during the protests. When in Paris, it’s best that you take a licensed taxi and zip it about Uber.
What do you have to add?
I reckon telling the locals that you prefer your own type of product over theirs would be a no no and not go over that well
Oh yes, that wouldn’t go over well at all!
Ze Coach says
Hi Diane, “Expecting everything to be exactly like it is at home” is definitely the one. On time, my US colleague came to Paris. After ordering salmon, he asked if it could be fried… Surprisingly, the chef said no. Also, as soon as he saw a Subway fast food, that’s where he would eat until the end of his stay in France. Here it was a professional travel but for vacation, I always wonder why people want to go abroad but need to find the exact same thing as at home.
There is a big cultural misunderstanding here. I think no French chef in his right mind would have agreed to fry the salmon, but that’s really cultural ! What I mean is that, as far as food matters, French and American people have very different upbringings.
In France, families sit a at table to eat together and there is only one menu for the whole family. Children are taught at a very early age (does two years old sound early to you ?) to eat what is on their plate like everyone in the family, no matter if they like it or not. We don’t make any exceptions, except if some family members have very inconvenient allergies like milk allergy. When we invite people to our homes, we generally ask people beforehand if there are things they can’t eat (the general answer is ‘no’) so that we can change the menu if someone is allergic to something. We simply won’t cook peculiar meals to suit the tastes of everyone or anyone, and asking for it is really rude in the French culture. Even the French President wouldn’t ask it from his chef, except to please a… foreign guest.
The same goes for restaurants. When we eat at a restaurant, we choose some of the dishes that the restaurant offers to cook : this is what menus are made for. If we really want to eat something peculiar, we just go to a restaurant that offers it. No Frenchman would ever ask a chef to make a dish that is not on the menu ! That just doesn’t happen here !
Actually, I don’t think your colleague ordered ‘salmon’ because that doesn’t exist in France. He might have tought he was doing it, but what he really ordered was a dish that contained salmon, with a precise recipe, and he actually asked for another recipe, therefore another dish that was not on the menu.
Cultural misunderstanding =)
Girl Gone Gallic says
Talking loudly on your cell phone in the TGV… Lots of dirty looks for doing that !