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Do's and Dont's of Visiting France the First Time

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Author: The Traveling Professor/Sunday, March 23, 2014/Categories: Paris

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The Dos and Don’ts of Visiting France for the First Time, Part One

by Stuart Gustafson, America’s International Travel Expert®, www.stuartgustafson.com

You’re excited because you’re finally going to France for the first time—congratulations! But then your mind starts asking questions like, “What should I wear?”; “What should I do?”; “Is it safe to be out at night?”; “Do they speak English?” Relax; once you do some proper planning and expectations setting, your trip to France will be magnifique, and you’ll start planning your return trip even before your feet leave French soil!

In Part One (of two parts), we’ll cover the five main “Don’ts”; the five main “Dos” are covered in Part Two.

#1 — Don’t stay where only Americans stay

One of the nice things about the big hotel chains is that they have hotels all over the world. You can find American-based hotels all over France, but do really want to spend your time being surrounded by Americans? If so, then why not just rent a hotel room in your own downtown?

Be a little adventurous and stay someplace “different.” Several European hotel chains to consider are Mercure and Ibis. Both have locations across France. You can also do a search on hotels or Bed & Breakfast lodgings in the areas where you’ll be. These hoteliers might not speak as fluent English as at the Marriott, but I’m confident that your stay will be more pleasurable, and your experiences will be more genuine.

#2 — Don’t be afraid to mispronounce words

The best way to learn a language is to speak it. The locals will know you’re not French; that’s okay. By attempting to speak some of their language, you’ll see them open up more to you, and they’ll extend the arm of hospitality as if you’re a longtime friend.

Besides your hotel or B&B, the safest place to try your new speaking skills is in the restaurant. If the waiter can’t understand what you are saying, you can always point to the picture and smile. Or say, S’il vous plait while you open your phrase book and find exactly what you’re trying to say and how to pronounce it. You’re only going to get better by practicing.

#3 — Don’t be a cheapskate

You’ve already spent a fair amount of money on the airfare (or cruise) just to get to France; don’t tighten up the purse strings now. Look at your spending as an investment in your travel experiences and enjoyment. This doesn’t mean you have to go crazy and buy everything you see, but if the room with a spectacular view costs a little bit more per night, then go for it. The elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower isn’t included in the Paris Museum Pass, so go ahead and spend the 12 Euros and go all the way to the top.

One place you can save a few dollars, however, is when you exchange Dollars for Euros. Your hotel might change them for you, but ask what their rate is; a B&B is less likely to be able to do the exchange for you. Walk to a bank, or an American Express exchange location; Amex gives a better rate plus no fee if you have your Amex card with you.

#4 — Don’t pay attention to the nay-sayers

There are always going to be some people who will try to discourage your trip to France. “They’re rude” some people will say. Others will tell you how their trip-of-a-lifetime was ruined by the cold and “I don’t speak any English” waiter they encountered during their special anniversary dinner. Don’t listen to those people; they’re secretly jealous that you’re going instead of them. If France were such an awful place to visit, why would over 75 million people a year go there?” It has topped the most-visited country list for four years in a row, and I don’t see what could change that.

#5 — Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the experience

It’s easy to get caught up in hustle and bustle of your trip. There is a lot to do before you go, and you might ask yourself, “Is this really worth it?” Yes, it is worth it. You are going to have the most marvelous time because you took your phrase book, and you weren’t afraid to speak French. One of the most surprising things is that you’ll find yourself automatically saying Merci instead of “Thank you.”

If the majority of your time is going to be in the smaller cities, you will be able to participate in many of the local activities, especially the open air markets on the weekend. Sample the breads, the cheeses, and the wines. Try out your French; it does come a little easier after the first glass of wine.

Stuart Gustafson is an author, speaker, and world traveler. With his U.S. Registered Trademark America's International Travel Expert®, he's helped many travelers to get more enjoyment out of their journeys, and he's frequently asked to speak aboard cruise ships around the world. Find out more about him at http://www.stuartgustafson.com.

In Part Two, we’ll make it more fun and cover the five main “Do” things for your first visit to France. 

For more information on traveling to Paris, Italy, Peru, and Spain, see The Traveling Professor’s website at http://www.travelingprofessor.com

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