Ahh the city of love, the city for lovers…the smelly city?
When I was 16 I went to France for the summer to learn French and had some reservations when we spent the final week in Paris. But I quickly learned that a lot of the cultural stereotypes I had heard simply weren’t true.
1) Paris is unsafe
It is unfair to say that Paris is dangerous. Many tourists fear for their safety when visiting The City of Lights but Paris has a much lower crime rate than you would expect.
In fact, like most European cities it is unusual to see many violent crimes from gangs or with guns.
Pickpocketing is more likely, particularly in the tourist areas. But that’s common in most cities and if you are careful with your valuables, or don’t take them out at all, you shouldn’t have a problem.
2) Paris is ridiculously expensive
Like most cities in Europe, Paris can be a city that will bust your budget if you don’t plan ahead.
It’s easy to get caught up in the chic restaurants by the main tourist attractions but if you walk just a few blocks out you will save a lot of money and eat with the locals.
Better yet, grocery stores are home to amazing baguettes, cheese and wine to eat in the park. Skip breakfast at the hotel and make a beeline for the famous French bakeries to start off the day.
Most attractions are free or reasonably priced. If you are keen to do a lot of sightseeing get the Paris Pass that allows you to skip lines and provides free transportation.
Head to a Parisian patisserie for delicious food that won’t blow your budget. Photo by austinevan.
3) The people are rude
I must admit that after spending four weeks in smaller French towns that were excited to see Canadians it was a bit off putting to visit Paris and see that they weren’t as overjoyed to see a tourist.
But after living in a large city I now understand the city mentality. Paris does not exist for tourism, but the upside is that tourists get a peek at the authentic Parisian life – which does not revolve around us. This is common is almost every major city in the world, including New York, London and Berlin.
The upside is that outside tourist haunts you won’t be pestered to buy souvenirs or tours.
6) Paris is filthy
Half the people who have visited will tell you it’s dirty and the other half will tell you it is clean. The truth is that Paris is like any other capital in the world.
Yes there are some dingy and seedy areas of the town I would not want to walk through. And I did smell urine in more than a few metro stops.
But I also remember thinking that they must have cleaned the Louvre with a toothbrush and the Champs Elysees was beautiful to walk through. You won’t see a lot of litter around the Eiffel Tower either.
The Champs Elysees could never be called filthy. Photo by lashkin.
5) Noone speaks English
The key to traveling in Paris when you don’t speak French is to begin the conversation in French with a few common phrases.
Once Parisians see that you are making an effort to be considerate to their culture, they will often switch to English if they speak it, or help you however they can.
A small phrase book can go a long way, if you muddle the pronunciation you can always point to the book.
The nice thing about Paris, is that unlike some of the more rural areas in France, you will find a lot of people who speak English, particularly around tourist sites.
6) It’s chic to smoke
One of the oldest stereotypes are the chic women smoking cigarettes in the street lined cafes of Paris. But this is no longer the case, when the French government announced a smoking ban in 2008 nearly everyone had their doubts.
But smoking has ceased in cafes and restaurants but the effects remain controversial as some claim it’s simply moved the smoking to the streets.
Regardless, while North Americans may find there are more smokers in Paris, it’s about the same as the rest of Europe and should not deter you from visiting.
A typical Paris scene: cigarettes, wine and a book but smoking has now been banned in cafes and restaurants. Photo by ohbendorf.
7) Parisians hate Americans
This could possibly be one of the most common myths about Paris and is the reason why many Canadians will wear their national flag emblazoned on their backpacks.
However, Canadians aren’t treated much different from Americans and I suspect all tourists are treated the same.
As far as politics is concerned, Americans can get a bad rap but Parisians understand that the average American may not agree with the actions of the government.
In fact you’ll most likely find most locals preferring to discuss American movies or music rather than politics.
Have you been to Paris? Did you find the locals snobbish or did you live it up in the illuminated city? Let me know what you think below.
If you liked this, you might also like: 6 London Myths Exposed.
Main image: a romantic kiss in Paris by kikasso.