You know the stereotype: Parisians ooze glamour, elegance and sophistication...and look down upon American tourists. While the cliche is somewhat of a cliche, it doesn't hurt to do your best to blend in to any local culture. If you want to pass as a Parisian in the City of Love, it’s all about the attitude and a few insider tips and tricks.
Add Some Attitude
The French have a reputation all over the world for their nonchalant "gallic" shrug, and a touch of "je ne sais quoi." It’s a fine blend of disdain, lack of interest, and a desire not to sweat the small stuff. In Paris, mastering the look that says "whatever" is key to fitting in. Practice your DGAF look, which can niftily replace words and keep you from blowing your cover.
Master the “I Don’t Care” Hair
Bed-hair, messy chic – whatever you want to call it, the real secret to looking like a Parisienne is in the hairdo – or lack thereof. Forget the sleek "done" bun, in Paris it’s all about a great cut and natural flow, as sported by the iconic Lou Doillon. For a style makeover, head to celebrity stylist John Nollet at the Park Hyatt Vendome. French screen icons Monica Belluci, Audrey Tautou, and Vanessa Paradis all swear by his talent and his apprentice performs miracles for about $225.
Dress the Part
Everyone knows fashion is forefront in Paris. Their perfect taste, and flawless style is something that comes as naturally as breathing. But, if you look closely there are some rules. Dress to impress by sticking to a simple color palate. Don’t pack loud prints and wild patterns for a trip to the designer Capital of the World, keep it dark with greys, blues, and blacks. Think like Mr Ford. And, if you don’t have racks of appropriate clothes at home, fear not. In Paris one can rent clothes for a fee. Showrooms like the Elss Collection, just off the Champs Elysees, offers all the latest pieces from Alberta Ferretti, Kenzo, Carven, Halston Heritage, Sophie Theallet, and Alexis Mabille. They will even give you style tips and tea. What more could a girl ask for?
When ordering "un café," there’s no need to follow up with a long-winded explanation. A café is simply an espresso, and that’s what the locals drink. If you start adding flavor shots and creamers, you’ll instantly be identified as a visitor. If you really can’t stand a strong, dark coffee in those teeny cups, one can get away with ordering a "noisette" (a hazelnut), which is an espresso with a dash of milk. If you want a large milky coffee creation, the correct term is "un grand crème" not café au lait. After dinner, try a ‘café gourmand’ instead of dessert, which is an espresso with a selection of mini pastries. You'll thank us later.
Ditch the Map
It’s an obvious one, but worth remembering: ban the guidebooks. Nothing says tourist quite like a map, and quite frankly, in the age of smartphones, it's inexcusable. Look like a local and stare at that little screen, just like everyone else. And, whatever you do, don’t gawk or mosey. Stride with purpose. Everyone’s in a hurry to get somewhere in Paris and if they're not, they must be tourists.
Get Your Flirt On
There’s no cliché without fire, right? It’s true, Parisians flirt. It’s perfectly acceptable behavior, even when married. In fact, flirting is just the beginning, but that’s another story. Just remember to always remain discreet.
Avoid the Obvious
This is not easy if it’s your first visit to Paris and you want to see the sights. The good news is you can still see the landmarks, without actually succumbing to the lines with thousands of other visitors. To see Paris’ most iconic sight, for example, venture into 7th, a charming neighborhood, where you can catch the market on Rue Cler or browse the boutiques, and, when you are least expecting it, turn a corner as the grand Eiffel Tower comes into view. You'll be surrounded by locals, chatting on a terrace or doing the weekly shopping – a far more authentic experience!
Cook like a Local
You know what they say, the stomach is the way to the heart. Not everyone eats at five-star restaurants all the time. Get back to the basics with a local, in a real kitchen, with real people. Ms Benedicte Mesny runs the Parisian Kitchen where she offers private cooking classes in her home in the hip 17th arrondissement. You'll set the menu and then head to Marche Levis for the ingredients. In just a few hours you'll have picked up some skills to benefit you even when you go home!
Know Where to Drink
There’s nothing worse than roaming the streets without knowing where to go. Do your homework and have a plan. Paris is in the midst of a cocktail craze (yes, we're a bit late to the party) so make a list of must-go-see bars like Le Ballroom or Le Fish Club on Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. Actually, it’s pretty safe to go to any of the Experimental Cocktail Club’s venues if you're into mixology. For a romantic rendezvous in a posh surrounding, try Le Mathis, just behind Champs Elysees.
Wear your Arrondissement on your Sleeve
To prove you’re a real local, pick your favorite arrondissement (neighborhood) and invest in a canvas tote that bears its number. Parisian based American, Kasia Dietz, is one of the city's chicest adopted residents and has designed a bag collection with the perfect choice of post codes to pick from. Pro tip: go with Rive Gauche/Rive Droite if you really can’t make up your mind!
Light One Up
A cigarette, that is. Sure it’s bad for you, but it's still very much a part of Parisian life. It all depends how much you want to fit in. And, what happens in Paris, stays in Paris. Bien sur.