Live Like a Local in Paris

Photo credit: Jenny Hughes for Frenchly

You’re in love with Paris, but the locals don’t seem to feel the same about you.

With over 30 million annual visitors, it’s understandable that residents of La Ville Lumière aren’t constantly warm and fuzzy towards tourists. I know every time I’m stuck behind a gaggle of camera-clad vacationers in New York, I’m tempted to give them a lesson on Walking Like a Local 101 (Tip 1: WALK FASTER.) Whether you recently moved to France’s capital or are visiting for a few days, you can nix the tourist label by emulating the Parisian rhythm.

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Here are some ways to earn the love and respect of Parisians, by living like a local:

Always Start with a Kiss (or Two)

Forget the handshake, and definitely ditch the hug, because la bise reigns supreme in France. Every time you meet, greet or bid farewell to someone in a social setting, you must participate in this cheek-kissing dance, or people will write you off as a socially inept cretin.

In most of Paris, two kisses are customary.

Eat Dinner After 7:30…

If you’re hunkering down for dinner at 5pm, you might as well head to Florida and set a date with grandma—Paris doesn’t do Early Bird Specials. If you find a restaurant open at that time, chances are the poulet tastes like plastic and the menu is available in five languages (with pictures!).

Any respectable Parisian restaurant closes between lunch and dinner services, from about 2:30pm to 7:30pm, so plan accordingly.

…Because Early Evening is for L’Apéritif

Waiting until 9pm to eat might send your stomach into a frenzied protest, so get acquainted with the wonderful French tradition of the apéritif. Apéro, as locals say, is a pre-meal gathering involving wine and snacks. An apéro can be anything from a quick glass of rosé to an overwhelming assortment of tapas-like offerings. If you can squeeze a few guests into your apartment, hosting your own apéro will score major points with French friends.

A Meal is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Parisians sit down for all meals, even—gasp!—during the workweek. Resist the urge to scarf a sandwich into your mouth as you run out the door; onlooking Parisians will be appalled. Food is meant to be enjoyed with good drink and company, so expect a leisurely dining experience and pace.

And remember, you have to ask for the check at the end of the meal, or you’ll be forgotten in back with the dirty dishes.

Dine Slow, Walk Fast 

As much as Parisians enjoy savoring their drinks and meals, they make up for it by cutting down on travel time. Ambling is acceptable only in parks, gardens, and the countryside. City sidewalks are strictly for getting around quickly.

On escalators, it is imperative to stand on the right/walk on the left to avoid the ire of French workers rushing to their next réunions. So get moving, walk like you know where you’re going, and hide your oversized spaceship masquerading as a camera.

Embrace Public Transportation

With 300 stations and 16 lines, the métro is the obvious transportation choice for locals and travelers alike. To avoid constantly fumbling at the ticket machines, get a carnet of tickets (it’s also cheaper to buy in bulk).

If you’re in Paris long-term, invest in a weekly or monthly Navigo pass. Don’t forget to keep your ticket, as you might need it to exit or to show fare inspectors. The bus system is also efficient, and the Noctiliens, night buses, are indispensable after a night of hitting the Paris club scene, when le métro is closed.

Dress Low-Key, Top-Model

Unless you’re physically on a treadmill, don’t even think of wearing your rainbow-vomit-neon color Asics outside. France is all about dressing chic, simple, and high fashion.

Instead of donning a show-it-all bodycon robe for a night out, dress as the Parisians do, where showing less is usually more. Love comfort? You’re in luck—fashion sneakers have swept the nation. Trade your multicolor runners for some Stan Smiths and you’ll fit right in.