So many people want to tell you their horror stories about Paris but you never seem to get the good stuff. Actually, for the sake of full disclosure I had 2 friends tell me some good stories but 90% were negative and even from people that never visited the city!
Well, I want to change that. I want to do some ‘mythbusting’ on some of the horror stories you hear about Paris .
Myth # 1- Pickpockets are everywhere!
I mean the stories I heard were ridiculous. I had visions of creepy hunchbacks like Quasimodo following me around trying to grab my purse. That is so far from the truth –dogs flying is probably a truer statement.
Paris is no different than any other major city on the planet. Anywhere there are tourists there are crowds.
If I were a pickpocket, I don’t think I would go to a farm town in Ohio–business would not be very lucrative there. So of course they go to big cities where all the tourists are with their fancy purses, big backpacks and wallets full of cash.
Be sensible just like you would in the mall, school, theater, etc., don’t tempt people! Keep everything zipped up, put your wallet in your front pocket, don’t carry around a gazillion dollars. That’s it–simple stuff.
Oh and someone told me don’t wear any jewelry, ironically it was my jeweler. Again, silly info. I just didn’t see many shady people with hacksaws walking around ready to cut fingers off so they can steal your rings.
Myth #2- Parisians hate Americans
I know more Americans that hate Americans, then I encountered in Paris. Everyone was very nice. Here’s how it goes people….we learned this in Kindergarten. Use your manners! Smile, say “Hello”, “Please”, and “Thank you” to everyone you meet in life no matter where you go and trust me they will do the same. It does help if you can learn these words in the language of the people you are visiting because basically–YOU ARE THEIR GUEST–not vice versa. It’s no different when foreigners visit your hometown and they make no attempt to speak your language.
Which leads me to the next myth…
Myth #3- Parisians refuse to speak English
It’s not about refusing, it’s more about not knowing how. I don’t understand why people think because you work in an establishment with tourists that your brain is automatically programmed to speak another language.
I worked for 16 years in a place that 90% of the people spoke only Spanish –one would assume I would be fluent by now. Nope, nope, nope–not even close–my brain is just not wired for it.
So back to French people. Everyone we encountered always spoke French first, because how can they tell by looking at me what language I speak? The minute I said, “Bonjour” it was pretty clear I didn’t speak French. If they knew English they gladly switched the language, if they didn’t then we would use hand signals, point, smile, dance…whatever it took to communicate. It’s not rocket science, it’s simple logic.
Oh and here’s a hot tip—learn French. Then you won’t have one ounce of trouble communicating in Paris!!
Myth #5- Don’t walk around Paris at night
It’s safer than Los Angeles in my opinion. I wouldn’t be caught dead in downtown L.A. after dark. In Paris , I think many people don’t own cars because of traffic, parking, costs, etc.,so they walk everywhere and use public transport. Obviously, this means people are all around the city at night. They also eat late and seem to be a very social community–so you see lots of people together in restaurants and cafes until late. You’re always safer at night in areas with big crowds of people anyway.
Where you end up in trouble is walking in desolate, dark places, where there are no other people.
And of course chances are you are probably in areas with 10,000 other tourists. If it’s midnight and no one else is on the street, I am going to guess you shouldn’t be there either. It has nothing to do with being French or American. It has to do with being stupid. I don’t think muggers discriminate. Stupid is stupid in any country.
We walked EVERYWHERE! 10:00 pm most nights we were walking back to our hotel and there were still people in restaurants, people sitting in cafes, just lots of people.
My last and finally myth I am busting.
Myth #6- Paris is expensive
I guess I can’t totally bust this myth because it is. But what big city isn’t? It’s a toursim thing I think. But, here’s where I can partially bust the myth. Much of your expense on a vacation has to do with food. In the U.S. we add a tip to our food bill for service. In Paris, your tip or service charge (TVA) is already added to your bill, so basically you don’t tip (I can already hear the groans, see my disclaimer at the end).
We saw TVA rates from 10% to 20% added to our bill, which basically turns out to the same prices we pay in the U.S. for a comparable meal. We did not find the food to be anymore expensive than in the U.S.
But, there are so many delicious crepe stands, pizza stands, panini stands, bakeries–we barely ate in restaurants. We weren’t trying to save money, it’s just what we prefer.
Another big expense is lodging. Our hotel which is lovely and in the heart of the city is way cheaper than any hotel we have ever stayed in New York.
We met a couple who stayed in a very nice AirBnB by the Louvre , complete with kitchen, washer and dryer for $80/night! I saw pictures and it was beautiful. We definitely could have used a washer and dryer this trip. Washing my socks in the tub and hanging them on the towel rack just isn’t cutting it. There’s something weird about giving complete strangers your dirty clothes to wash so I prefer the tub method. I may need to rethink the AirBnB route next trip.
We have 2 more days here in the City of Lights, but the last 8 days have been wonderful. Yes, we had a little snafu with the tour buses but that wasn’t Paris’ fault. So barring any unforeseen circumstances in the next 2 days, I am going to rate this trip a big 10!
Now for the fine print…
I know there are exceptions to every rule. I know people do get mugged, robbed or whatever in Paris. I know that Quasimodo was probably a really nice guy. I also know that you can tip in Paris if you feel the service is exceptional, and we did. But I also know that Paris is a beautiful city with rich history and culture, fabulous architecture, and warm and friendly people. Au revoir Paris, we will be back!
~Mike and Donna~