Hit the ground running in Paris! Don’t let a little language barrier trip you up, not when there is so much signage to lend a guiding hand and make your transition as smooth and exciting as a Johnny Weir solid gold triple axel!
Exit signs are clearly marked by the word, “Sortie,” which can also mean “military action” or “flight.” Think about that as you fight for your turn on the escalators at the Printemps department store during sale time! (And once you get on, remember to stand on the right, pass on the left!)
2. Digital signs of the times
Most metro stations are now equipped with digital countdown clocks indicating the next two incoming trains. If the first train looks too crowded and the next is only a moment behind, it may help you decide whether to give the first a pass. (By the way, Paris is on the 24-hour clock format. 19hr = 7 PM.)
3. Street smart
You’ll find the iconic blue street signs on the sides of buildings, usually at intersections. Just above the name of the street, the signs will also list the “arrondissement” (1-20) that you’re in. Often they’ll include a historical tidbit, too, about the person or event the street is named for.
4. Pharmacy signs
Pharmacies are easily recognizable by their flashing green cross signs, dressed in neon and super cool LED. In each neighborhood at least one remains open through the night (and a closed pharmacy will post a sign directing you to the nearest open pharmacy).
French pharmacists are licensed to diagnose and treat minor illnesses without doctors’ prescriptions. (Eye opener: this is also where you’ll pick up contact solution, eyedrops, and contact lens cases. Grocery stores don’t carry them.)
5. Green man walking
Always wait for the pedestrian crosswalk green man to give the signal to walk. However, note: On many of the wider streets and boulevards you’re supposed to cross in two stages, waiting for a second set of signals to indicate when it is safe to continue the rest of the way.
6. “Happy Hour” signs
Poking out of nearly every nook and cobblestoned cranny, chalkboard signs with their seductive hand-written descriptions still have a commanding presence in the city. Happy Hour specials and fixed-price set meals tempt passersby from restaurant doors, terrace tabletops, and windows. (Cheapos, the “formule” is normally the cheapest version of the fixed-price menu.)
7. Banner Day
Keep your eyes peeled for banners stretched over streets announcing free concerts, festivals and “brocantes” (itinerant flea markets). Need eyeglass repairs? Look for neon spectacle-shaped signs.
8. Sign, sign everywhere a sign
You’ll find countless publicity signs for department stores, movies, and museum expositions on classic Parisian “Morris columns” (rotating cylindrical billboards) and plastered on poles, café windows and Metro station walls. Take note, Cheapos—spontaneous planning just got easier!