Ways to Stand out as a Tourist (in Provence)
Other than the Obvious Language Issue
Disclaimer: these are gross generalisations made from our personal observations. And, I’m quite frankly guilty or have been, of many of these.
In a Restaurant:
- You show up too early at restaurants. (For God sakes don’t show up before 7:30 at night- and for that matter, you also don’t show up after 1:30 to eat lunch)
- You order only a ‘plat direct’ in a restaurant (only the main course)
- You take your glass/coffee cup back to the bar when you pay (the French find this quite amusing and charming. I do it often- it’s not a bad thing!)
- You don’t immediately know what apéritif you want as soon as you sit down (In North America and Britain the client is allowed a minute to decide. In France, you’re asked immediately- so think about it before you sit down!- this is frustrating because I like a moment to decide)
- You order a soft drink for your kid (kids rarely drink soft drinks here. It’s considered very unhealthy. I’ve known many young kids who have never tried surgery drinks. Instead, kids drink syrups here in all flavours. The syrups are heavily watered down)
- you really dress up when you go to a restaurant (the French always dress well but women (in Provence) will rarely put heels on and lots of makeup for a date in a restaurant)
- you complain something was wrong with your meal after you’ve eaten it
What You’re Wearing
- You wear outdoor pursuit clothing when not exercising (anything The North Face in particular)
- Even worse, you wear his and hers outdoor pursuit clothing (I’m looking at you Brits)
- Socks and sandals (Enough said- Brits and Germans)
- You wear bright colours (In southern France, people do wear colours rather than the black uniform Parisians wear. However, the only place you’ll find men other than Americans sporting bright pink polo shirts is on the Cote d’Azur and- they’re generally Parisians)
- You wear the tell-tale “Brit on holiday” Tilley hat
- you wear flip-flops (Australians and Americans)
- You wear lots of makeup and blow dry your hair (French girls think less is more- sometimes to the extreme)
On the Street
- You don’t say Bonjour when you walk into a store or pass someone on the street (Parisians don’t do this either and they are classified as the worst tourists so try not to put yourself in that category!)
- The way you say Bonjour (Try you best to pronounce it properly. You can’t fault this American woman for her enormous, endearing effort in Paris Je t’Aime)
- You’re sunburnt (Brits seem to take some joy in this for some reason- perhaps it’s overexcitement at seeing the sun)
- You take no notice of the large signs warning you of bull running in the streets. There are barriers- so take notice!
- You’re too shy to taste at markets (I know that in British and Canadian culture you feel obligated to buy if you taste but here you taste because the producer is proud of their product. Obviously they want to sell it to you but there is not such an emphasis on this)
- You spend an afternoon wine tasting and don’t buy anything (Chinese)
- You dare to pick the flowers in lavender fields while taking photos which has sadly led to many fields being roped off. Remember- they’re not there to be pretty- they’re a crop!
- You encounter countless awkward situations when meeting people (to do the ‘bise’/ kisses or a handshake? -I’m still working on this one) Oh, and how many kisses!?
- Not saying ‘bon appétit’ to absolutely anyone you see eating (if you see someone having a picnic, a construction worker tearing into a tartelette aux fraises while sat in his truck- it doesn’t matter you say bon appetite- it’s fun!)
- Saying cheers or “santé” without looking each person in the eye as you’re clinking glasses. The French are adamant not doing this can lead to 7 years bad sex. Or something as horrendous as that… It can be exhausting though. The staring into eyes- not the bad sex!?
- You meet someone else from your country and continue speaking French to them even though you’re both Anglophones (a huge pet peeve of mine- it just seems so silly!)
In the end, just try your best to be respectful. This is just a fun list.
Cultural difference is what makes travel fun and interesting!
Want to read more about my personal blunders? Check out these articles: