Paris: 8 travel myths debunked

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Paris skyline
Everyone knows Paris is beautiful, but it's also friendly, affordable and not as chic as you think. We kid you not! Photo: maziar hooshmand

You’ve heard it all about Paris, but it’s time to set some things straight. Just because TripAdvisor or Uncle Chuck says something is one way doesn’t make it so. Here are eight myths to get out of your head before coming to Paris, in case they are still haunting you.

1. Parisians are rude to tourists.

This is a big city, like New York or London, and you get your grumps alongside some of the sweetest people in the world, so be prepared. But did you say “bonjour”? Did you smile? Or did you just expect the red carpet to be rolled out?

Service is different in Paris, where waiters don’t work for tips and hotels don’t have to worry about filling beds, so they’re not always going to go that extra mile. But the average Parisian on the street won’t blow you off with a huff and puff of their cheeks—at least not always.

Louvre

Nobody is forcing you to go. Photo: David McKelvey

2. You have to go to the Louvre.

You don’t have to go anywhere in Paris. Is the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame or any monument worth a visit? Yes, of course. But you can’t sink your whole trip to Paris by not doing something that others deem essential. I’m by no means discouraging visiting the top tourist attractions, but if art isn’t your thing, then do you really want to spend hours in a museum? Just sayin…

Hotel Eldorado Paris

The charming Hotel Eldorado has doubles from €68 a night.

3. Paris is expensive.

Wine for €3 a bottle, entire baguette sandwiches for €4, hotel rooms for under €100, metro rides for less than €2, museums for free… need I go on?

If you want to live the high life, Paris makes it easy, but if you’re on a budget, Paris makes it even easier if you know where to look. You don’t have to compromise an amazing experience, either, just because you’re pinching pennies.

A visit to the Carnavalet museum (free!) will be just as rewarding as a dip into the Musée de l’Orangerie (€9). A falafel sandwich from L’As (€5.50) is a very different, but just as memorable experience as a meal at Le Meurice (€200). Well, maybe…

Do some research and ask around to find a good meal. Photo: EuroCheapo

Do some research and ask around to find a good meal. Photo: EuroCheapo

4. You can’t get a bad meal in Paris.

Rubbery steak, frozen fries and stale pastries are just as much a part of the Parisian landscape as all of that food porn you’ve seen by bloggers and magazines. Blogger Lindsey Traumuta says to do your research before choosing a restaurant, if quality food is important for you. “That the cuisine is French, or prepared in France, doesn’t equate to perfection,” she says.

Some restaurants put more effort into translating their menus into ten languages than in actually preparing good food, so don’t be fooled. If your meal doesn’t taste good, it’s OK, you’re not the first to have eaten there. Or the last.

Paris fashion

Seriously, it’s not (usually) like this. Photo: Luc Dib

5. All Parisians are chic dressers.

Fashion week, shmashion week—Parisians aren’t as elegant as you think. Sure the ladies and gents on the runway look fabulous, but the daily Parisian varies from the Chucks and skinny jeans with a faded tee shirt worn by hipsters along the Canal to a tailored suit and cropped haircut for the business associates. Ladies often mix and match boots with leggings and sweaters that even Picasso would find odd, while oversized sweatpants are seen in the Marais.

There’s no one look—Parisians dare them all. The only difference is no matter how ludicrous their outfit is, they wear it with confidence. But it can still look terrible.

Paris police

Paris’ police force is everywhere—even on bikes. Photo: crash

6. Paris is dangerous.

Unless dog droppings are your kryptonite, Paris isn’t really that much of a crime den. In fact, pickpocketing decreased 22.4% last summer compared to 2012.

Violent crimes are extremely rare, and there are a few scams such as people asking for signatures on fake petitions while pickpocketing you, but it rarely escalates. Common sense, like in any city, should be exercised in crowded areas and the Metro, but otherwise there’s nothing to fear.

Alone in Paris

Alone in Paris? You’ll fit right in. Photo: Damien Roué

7. Paris is for lovers.

Paris is actually for singles, since around 51% of the city is without a partner, much higher than the national average. Once together, many young French couples flee the city. So come to the city, find a mate, and then hightail it out. When doe-eyed tourists in love visit the city, you can be sure that the many bachelors and maidens will be judging. And harshly, at that.

Paris waiter

Go ahead and ask. He understands (and probably has a really cute accent). Photo: Julie Kertesz

8. Parisians don’t speak English.

How often have we heard, “Uh, my Eenglish iz not zogewd,” when speaking with a waiter? A rigid education system that dabbles in public shaming has left many French people afraid to carry on a discussion in a foreign language, but most English-speakers are all too ready to praise their efforts, which usually reveal pretty decent mastery.

“Many of them speak it, and more of them understand it, even if they’re afraid to speak because of pronunciation,” says tour guide and writer Heather Stimmler-Hall. Secretly, they probably just love the flow of compliments that you’ll inevitably shower on them.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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7 thoughts on “Paris: 8 travel myths debunked”

  1. Totally agree with your article..
    My teen daughter & myself visited Paris Nov13 on a very very low budget! We did the metro, buses & velibed our way… loving it so much! The traffic too, was so caring & polite to the biker.. even the buses gave u a friendly ‘ding ding’ as they passed you! WOW! We found fab places to eat that were soo delish and affordable. Lots of scammers.. but they weren’t ‘French’ and too easy to spot. We tried hard to blend in..which we did so well that some French people asked us for directions. When we were in a state of ‘mmm not sure what to take’ (metro) someone would offer to look it up on their Iphone and give us the best connection! Also I discovered that to see a movie in ‘English’ ie “Gravity” you ask for the Original version. Museums free for my daughter We loved the Degas Museum plus Museum D’Orsay in the evening …fantastic …we took a very French picnic to eat in Degas’s garden.
    Get a bunch of metro ticket & just hop on a bus & see where it takes you!
    Had a treat & went to the hairdressers wow ! (actually twice!) And they had little English but all were planing trips to Australia….!
    Paris is such a beautiful city…and the butter the eggs the bread ……..the markets mmmm !
    The trip gave us so much.. we would love to go again!

    Reply
  2. Having visited Paris many more times than other European cities, I find myself agreeing with comments about the 8 myths, especially the one about rude Parisians. Paris is a big city, and with any big city, you’ll find your unpleasant types. You’ll also find many helpful residents too. And I speak with fond memories of the latter type.

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  3. Just found your blog. Love it. You make this expat laugh while trying to comprehend the ins and outs of Parisian life. And dog droppings are my kryptonite…UGH!

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  4. This is my second visit to the great city. My first one being in 1989…
    You have certainly captured the pet peeves and main concerns of the traveller! I have found that smiling genuinely while asking for help works every time- it is the natural universal response after all.
    Experiencing all that you’ve captured Bryan and loving it! Thank you from New Zealand!

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  5. A couple of good points !! I mean Parisians are definitely not rude but point number 3 is not necesseraly accurate – I am sure u can get a bottle of wine for 3 euro ( obviously u know better) but what kind of wine that would be ? and how far out of paris should u go to get it?

    The thing is – Paris is magic! It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely doable ;) food is like everywhere – do ur research and avoid touristic places, don’t go to museums – unless u have loads of time, otherwise u’ll come back without seeing paris! :). Paris is dangerous in some parts- like any other big city…basically …leave all ur doubts behind and go there :)

    Sandra from http://www.chicplaisir.com

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    1. Hello. I love the tips. We have often found lots of really good cheap (pardon, inexpensive) wines in the Nicolas stores. There are quite of few of them all around Paris. Plus the grocery markets as well have a great selection of wines. You can find a variety of prices but there are plenty of nice regional wines. The people in the Nicolas stores are very helpful!

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