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.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.