Skip To Content
  • Viral badge

15 Things You Should Never Do When You Visit France

We're not being rude, we're just being French.

1. Thinking everything there is to see in France is in Paris.

Anyaberkut / Getty Images

Or maybe the French Riviera if you're feeling adventurous. France is a varied and beautiful country, from the coastline of Brittany and the mountains of the French Basque Country to the gorgeous streets of Strasbourg and the volcanos of Auvergne. Paris is beautiful and so is the French Riviera, but it's worth taking a few extra days on your trip to get off the beaten paths.

2. In Paris, only sticking to the touristy neighborhoods...

Google Maps

Sure, the Eiffel Tower is emblematic, and Notre Dame is gorgeous, but make sure to spend some time exploring parts of the city where local Parisians hang out and tourists don't often go. Here are a few suggestions.

3. And basing your whole opinion of France on those (very privileged) touristy Parisian neighborhoods.

The CW

No, not all French women dress like nonchalant-yet-stylish models, and not all of France looks picture-perfect. And if I read another book on French women's beauty secrets written by an American who spent a month on Paris's Left Bank, I'm gonna lose my mind.

4. Getting mad at waiters for not bringing you the check.

Lucato / Getty Images

It's actually considered rude for a waiter to bring the check to a table before the customer requests it. It makes you feel like you have to be done and exit the restaurant right away, while French restaurant culture is all about taking as much time as you want. So if you're done, just wave nicely at your waiter (don't call them "garçon"!) and ask for "l'addition."

5. Expecting your waiter to fill your glass with water and check in on you regularly.

Shotshare / Getty Images

That won't happen. But you'll have a water carafe on your table that'll be refilled when needed and you are expected to fill your own glass because you're a grown-up and it's ridiculous to have someone fill your glass for you. And if something isn't right, you can wave your waiter over and tell him. He won't come interrupt your meal to check because that's considered rude and unnecessary. If that all sounds like a hassle to you, just remind yourself that you don't have to tip him 'cause he already gets paid.

6. Not taking your time.


I know there is a lot to see in Paris and in France and it's tempting to try to fit as much as you can in the few days you'll spend there. But to truly experience France and its culture, sacrifice a few stops on your schedule and learn to take your time: Grab a coffee at a terrasse and just watch people pass by for a couple of hours, or take a three-hour lunch break and really enjoy the food and the company. French culture is all about taking the time to enjoy life.

7. Eating your meals in touristy neighborhoods.

Getty Images

Restaurants in touristy areas are pricey and mediocre, serving tourists what they think is traditional French food. If you're in Paris, avoid restaurants around the main attractions like the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, or the Champs Elysées. Instead, go explore the 9th, 10th, 11th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements, where locals actually go out and eat.

8. Only trying super-traditional French food.

Bonchan / Getty Images

Hearty, traditional French food can be a delight, but the version served in some restaurants sometimes isn't. So while you should definitely seek a great cassoulet during your visit, you should also check out the neo-bistro scene that's been inventing new takes on classic recipes, or eat at the many delicious Moroccan, Italian, and Vietnamese restaurants you can find around the country.

9. Thinking French people eat frog legs on the reg.

Getty Images

The only restaurants offering frog legs on their menu are tourist-driven restaurants, and the only people ordering frog legs are...tourists.

10. Assuming everyone speaks English.

Oko_swanomurphy / Getty Images

I often hear Americans complain about how rude French people are when you ask them for directions. First, people living in touristy areas in France have to deal with tourists' requests all year long and it's frankly wearying after a while. Second, many tourists approach locals in English without even bothering to make an effort to say a few words in French. Can you imagine a French tourist coming up to you in Times Square and asking you for directions in French? That would be absurd. So, say, "Bonjour, excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais?" ("Hi, excuse me, do you speak English?") and once they say yes, ask in English. They'll appreciate you've made the effort and they'll make one in return. If they say no, move on and find someone else to annoy.

11. Dressing like the stereotype of a French person during your trip.

Rosshelen / Getty Images

You do you, but just know you look like a fool when you wear a beret to the Eiffel Tower.

12. Assuming that the cultural bluntness is directed at you personally.


We don't usually smile to strangers on the street and we don't ask people how they are when we don't actually want to know. We do, however, say hello and goodbye when we enter and exit a boutique or an elevator, which is not custom in the US. Manners are culturally subjective and people aren't being rude to you when they don't act like you do back home.

13. Wearing flip-flops in the city.

Getty Images

Listen, you do what you want with your life and your feet, but the French will definitely judge you.

14. Taking cabs to get around.

Narvikk / Getty Images

Cabs are way pricier in Paris and big French cities than they are in the US. Most French cities also happen to be highly walkable and have great public transportation systems. Besides, the best way to get a real taste of what life in Paris is like is to take the Métro all over the city.

15. Expecting to find everything open on a Sunday.

Arseniy Rogov / Getty Images

Most things are closed on Sundays, including many restaurants. It's the law and honestly it's pretty nice and soothing to have a day when you're forced to slow down and not buy anything. So don't fight it, but embrace the slowed-down pace and maybe go to the park or check out a museum or two (they're usually open on Sundays).

If you enjoyed this article, here’s a video you might like, too:

View this video on YouTube