5 Tips on How To Be Polite in France
From One American to Another
1. Never, ever try to sneak in an extra person into your hotel room. Unlike the US, a cost is associated with each person staying in a room, so if you try to sneak someone in, the receptionist or hotel owner will believe that you are trying to cheat them out of well-deserved cash. You will offend the person manning the desk and they will become upset. You have been rude and they may even kick you and your extra guest to the curb, without a bed to sleep in at all for the night. If for some reason you need to add someone to your reservation last minute, simply ask if a different room is available that could accommodate your extra guest. They will do their best to make it work and will appreciate the fact that you didn’t illegally smuggle an extra person into your room.
2. Be quiet. No matter how loud and belligerent the bars and restaurants at home allow us to be, in France, they appreciate their peace and quiet. They do not want to hear you laughing from across the room. And no, not everyone on the train wants to know who slept with whom and why they are being sooo dramatic! Be aware of your noise levels and maybe, just maybe, we can improve the American reputation abroad.
3. Do not take pictures of the locals. If you must, be discreet. Festivals, tourist attractions, and famous landmarks are great places to snap photos. However, if you are in a small town, or a quiet part of a big city, be respectful of the inhabitants. No one likes a camera shoved in their face or a flash blinding their eyes, especially if the perpetrator is a stranger. If you really feel that a portrait of the gypsy sitting on the cobblestones will add value to your photo book when you get home, ask before you take the photo. And then put some money in the gypsy’s cup.
4. Eat as much of the food on your plate as your belly will allow, and then some. Wasting food is not taken as lightly in France as it is in the US, so do yourself a favor and join the clean plate club. If you are eating at someone’s house, make sure to taste the food before heaping two ladleful’s onto your plate. It is not impolite to take seconds, or even thirds. In fact, it is a compliment to the cook that you enjoyed the food so much! The choice is yours: offend your host by leaving leftovers or delight your host by eating your portion.
5. Pack light. The cars are smaller, the hotel rooms are smaller and there is only so much space on the train for luggage. You will not need all the clothes that fit into a 4’x2’x2’ rolling suitcase for your two week trip. Europeans are notorious for wearing a few nice things many different ways so think of your trip as a way to practice the skill.