“Ditch the Eiffel Tower Selfies!” Your Un-Touristy Guide to Crushing your stay During the Olympics in Paris

All the Parisians I’ve spoken too are leaving town during the Paris Olympics, leaving behind the city of love for the army’s of sports fans, champagne quaffing VIPs and hard working olympic volunteers & athletes. The tourist traps, scams and disneyfication of Paris is in full flow, prices have been boosted and quality of life in the city of light is prédicted to be far worse during the Paris Olympics of 2024.

Welcome to Paris 1 of our Paris Olympics Survival Guide. My nephew, who will be here for the whole duration, asked me to offer up some tips on how he can survive the Paris Olympics. So I’m writing this guide for you as a seasoned Parisian chef and tour guide to show you how to really experience the Olympics.

Over the next three posts in this mini series, you will become a Parisian in training.

Forget the guidebook clichés. This is your backstage pass to living like a local during the most chaotic (and delicious) time of the year.

an illustration of chic Parisians surviving the Paris olympics by using the velib - a collective bike sharing service in paris

Transportation: Metro Mayhem, Two-Wheeled Triumphs, and the Olympic Obstacle Course

Brace yourselves, fellow travelers! The Olympics are about to turn Paris’s already chaotic transport system into a full-blown circus. With an expected 9 to 10 million daily trips during the games, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with sweaty athletes, bewildered tourists, and grumpy Parisians who just want to get to work. As one French newspaper put it, ‘The conditions will be varied…At certain times of day and in certain stations, it will take up to 15 minutes just to get to the metro platform.

But don’t despair! Your trusty chef-turned-Parisian-expert is here to help you navigate the madness and emerge victorious (or at least with your sanity intact).

Top Tips for Surviving the Transport Apocalypse

  • App-solutely Essential: Download the RATP app before you arrive. It’s your lifeline for real-time updates, route planning, and avoiding the dreaded “fermeture exceptionnelle” (unexpected closure). Plus, you’ll save a few euros by buying tickets in advance – those overpriced croissants aren’t going to pay for themselves.
  • Embrace the Vélib Revolution: “Forget the car!” declares a recent article on navigating the Olympics. With Olympic “red zones” galore and limited car access, your trusty two-wheeler is your ticket to freedom (and envy from gridlocked motorists). Paris is set to become a “100% cyclable” city during the games, with over 400km of new protected bike lanes and 20,000 bike parking spaces near Olympic venues. Grab a Vélib’ pass and join the pedal-powered party. Just watch out for those cobblestones – a Parisian rite of passage is at least one scraped knee. And don’t forget to reserve your bike in advance using the Vélib’ app to avoid disappointment.
  • Pink is the New Black: Keep an eye out for the new pink Olympic signage. It’s like a treasure map guiding you through the maze of detours and disruptions.
  • Patience is a Virtue (And a Necessity): Give yourself ample time to get around. Between Olympic crowds and the usual Parisian transport quirks, delays are inevitable. Consider it an opportunity to practice your zen – or perfect your Gallic shrug.

Deciphering the Metro Map: A Parisian Puzzle (With a Side of Existential Dread)

Forget everything you know about logical transport systems. The Paris metro is a labyrinthine masterpiece designed to test your sanity. But hey, at least it’s charmingly old-fashioned.

  • Destination Fixation: Unlike London, Paris metro signs only show the final destination, not the direction of travel. So, channel your inner Sherlock and figure out which end of the line you need.
  • App-ocalypse Now: The RATP app is your best friend (and therapist) during the Olympics. It’ll tell you which direction to head, which part of the platform to stand on, and even warn you about impending meltdowns on Line 13.

Etiquette 101: How to Avoid Being That Tourist (and Getting Glared at by Parisians)

Congratulations, you’ve made it onto the metro! Now, don’t blow it by committing these cardinal sins of Parisian transport etiquette.

  • Move It or Lose It: Don’t block doors, escalators, or walkways. Parisians are on a mission, and you’re not going to slow them down with your selfie stick.
  • The On-Off Tango: Master the art of the metro shuffle. Let people off before you try to squeeze on. It’s like a choreographed dance, only with more grumpy commuters.
  • Lost in Translation? Ask for Help! (But Nicely): Parisians may have a reputation for being rude, but they’ll usually help if you ask politely (and in French, if you can manage it).
  • Silence is Golden: Keep your conversations to a whisper (or better yet, mime). Nobody wants to hear about your baguette adventures while they’re trying to mentally prepare for the work day.

Vélib: Your Pedal-Powered Passport to Freedom (And Maybe Some Scraped Knees)

Paris has become a cycling paradise, thanks to a massive investment in protected bike lanes. And with the Olympics in town, it’s only going to get better. So ditch the metro madness and hop on a Vélib.

  • Olympic Legacy: The games are leaving behind a network of over 400km of safe cycling paths. It’s like a gift from the cycling gods (or maybe just the mayor).
  • Finding Your Steed: Download the Vélib’ app to locate available bikes and docking stations. It’s easier than hailing a taxi (and way more fun).
  • Helmet Hair, Don’t Care: Don’t forget your helmet! It’s not just about safety, it’s about looking like a seasoned cyclist (and not a clueless tourist).

Side Note: The Bus – Your Scenic (But Potentially Stressful) Alternative

The bus offers a charming way to see the city, but be prepared for delays and detours during the Olympics. Check the RATP app for real-time updates before you embark on your adventure.

Walking = B.M. Double Pied (Bring Comfortable Shoes)

Paris is best explored on foot. So lace up your comfiest kicks and get ready to wander through the city’s open-air museum. Just remember to look up from your phone occasionally – those Haussmannian buildings are worth a glance or two.

For Up to Date Paris Olympics Travel Info

Check out the official RATP website for more advice

Or enjoy the snarky Parisian’s up to date Paris Olympics Transport News

a relaxed couple enjoying paris having read our Paris Olympics Survival Guide

Etiquette: From Bises to Baguettes

Even after years of living in France I can’t tell you that I understand all of the intricacies of living with the French. However, this is an essential survival guide for your time during the olympics so I am going to help you navigate through the basics and ensure you don’t get glared at, and to ensure that I don’t get those annoyed texts from my wife about how foreigners are soo fantastically rude.

The Basics of Parisian Etiquette

  1. Be Polite – Paris is a small city packed with many people and cultures, respect everyone around you in this small space by being polite.
  2. Always say Bonjour – Wherever and whoever you are with, always say Bonjour, it’s normal!
  3. Don’t dress like a slob – No running shorts to the restaurant or crocs please.
  4. Watch your table manners – I don’t expect you to shell your prawns with a knife an fork but keep your hands above the table and eat with your mouth shut.
  5. Keep your voice down – Brit’s and American’s are always considered loud, keep your voice down to avoid being glared at.

The Art of the Bise: A Cheek-Kissing Masterclass

Ahhh the Bise this quintessential French greeting which now leaves me as awkward as a chicken hunting a worm when I meet people outside of France. The best guide is the video that follows, but here are the rules I follow.

  • The bise does not mean you kiss people; quickly press your cheek to their cheek and kiss the air, not the skin.
  • When meeting french people you are expected to give them the biz or shake their hand.
    • if you are a woman – you kiss everyone (see not below)
    • if you are a man – you kiss your friends, your family and anyone you got drunk with. The rest of the time a firm shake of the hand with good eye contact.
  • If your still confused on meeting french people use the phrase “On se fait la bise?” to ensure you are not about to create a collapse of the entente cordial.

Yes, sorry ladies, I know this is sexist, but it’s part of the baked in sexism of french culture that we are all trying to delete. For our daughter (as for many other modern parents in Paris) you will be expected to ask for a kiss when you meet them as consent it key.

Head over to Paul Taylor’s YouTube for more Parisian etiquette inspired comedy!

Tipping Tips: How to Leave a Gratuity

In French we call Tip’s “pour boire” which means, for drinks. That means that no, we won’t buy you a drink if you just grabbed us a coffee from the automatic coffee making machine. If we feel like you gave us good service, we will give you a drink.

Since COVID we know how hard it is to get good service and show our appreciation by rewarding the team with a drink. You don’t need to tip, it’s not expected. But if you have a place you like that you want to be remembered in and you want to go back to. Give them a tip.

Dress Code Confidential: Blend In, Don’t Stick Out

You will never be as effortfully stylish as a Parisian and Parisian’s incredibly accepting of every individuals style. That means if you dress like a cyberpunk or a gentleman farmer they will accept it.

Unless You’re Going for the ‘I’m a tourist, please rob me’ Look

I’m no style Guru. Even my five year old daughter tells me off for what I wear.

You’ll never out-chic a Parisian. They practically invent effortless style in their sleep. But fear not, fashion-challenged friends, even you can blend in and avoid those pitying glances (or worse, pickpocket targets).

How to Channel Your Inner Coco Chanel

  • Less is More: Parisians have mastered the art of the capsule wardrobe. A few well-chosen, high-quality pieces are better than a suitcase full of fast-fashion duds.
  • Neutrals Are Your Friend: Embrace a palette of black, white, beige, and navy. It’s chic, timeless, and won’t scream “tourist.”
  • Quality Over Quantity: Invest in well-made clothes that fit you like a glove. Parisians prioritize quality over trends, so leave those flashy logos and gimmicky designs at home.
  • Accessorize with Attitude: A scarf, a statement necklace, or a pair of cool sunglasses can elevate any outfit. But remember, less is more.

Parisian Style Secrets

  • Dress Up, Not Down: Parisians rarely underdress. Even a casual outfit will have a touch of polish. So, when in doubt, err on the side of being slightly overdressed.
  • Scarves Are Your Best Friend: A scarf can instantly transform your look from drab to fab. Learn a few different ways to tie it, and you’ll be a Parisian in no time.
  • The “No-Makeup” Makeup Look: Parisian women are known for their natural beauty. A touch of mascara, a swipe of lipstick, and you’re good to go.
  • Confidence is Key: The most important accessory you can wear is confidence. Walk with purpose, head held high, and own your look.

Remember: Parisian style is all about expressing your individuality while still looking put-together. So, experiment, have fun, and don’t be afraid to break the rules (a little bit).

A picture of Parisians enjoying drinks in the street and having a wonderful time

Parlez-Vous Franglais? Essential Phrases for Faking Your Way Through Paris

Forget those dusty phrasebooks from your high school French class. Here’s the real lingo you need to navigate Paris like a pro (or at least like you’ve been here more than five minutes).

The Basics (Beyond “Bonjour”):

  • “Bonjour!” (bohn-zhoor): The magical word that opens doors (and smiles) in Paris. Use it liberally, from entering a shop to asking for directions.
  • “Merci!” (mehr-see): Gratitude is key, even if you’re just buying a baguette. Throw in a “beaucoup” (bo-koo) for extra politeness points.
  • “Au revoir!” (ohr-vwah): The classic goodbye. If you’re feeling fancy, try “à bientôt!” (ah bee-ahn-toh) for “see you soon.”

The Sounds of Parisian Frustration:

  • “Behhh…” (beh): The quintessential Parisian sound of exasperation. Use it when the metro is delayed, your coffee is cold, or someone cuts you in line. Bonus points for adding a dramatic eye roll.
  • “Pfff…” (pf): A long, drawn-out sigh that conveys disbelief or annoyance. Perfect for reacting to outrageous prices, absurd fashion choices, or your team losing a match.
  • “Merde!” (mehrd): The French equivalent of “sh*t!” Use with caution (and only when you’re really frustrated).

Level Up Your Parisian-ness:

  • “Je ne comprends pas” (zhuh nuh kohm-prahn pah): The perfect phrase for when you’re utterly lost in translation (which will happen, trust me).
  • “C’est combien?” (seh kohm-bee-ehn?): Essential for navigating markets and shops. This means “How much is it?”
  • “Un café, s’il vous plaît” (uhn kah-fay seel voo pleh): Your ticket to a caffeine fix at any Parisian café.
  • “Où sont les toilettes?” (oo sohn lay twah-let): Don’t be caught off guard. This means “Where is the bathroom?”
  • “C’est délicieux!” (seh day-lee-syuh): The ultimate compliment to a chef (or your host). This means “It’s delicious!”

Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to butcher the pronunciation. Parisians appreciate the effort, even if your accent sounds like a mix of Pepé Le Pew and Inspector Clouseau.

Remember, language is just one part of blending in. Pair your newfound vocabulary with the right attitude (a mix of confidence and curiosity) and you’ll be well on your way to faking it till you make it as a Parisian.

Beyond the Berets: Finding Real Parisian Culture (Yes, It Exists!)

Paris is a city of secrets, people have been hunting them down to share them with tourists for more than 300 years. The hidden courtyards, whimsical museums, and charming neighbourhoods beckon to the intrepid explorer.

While the Olympics may be the main attraction, savvy traveler’s know that the true magic of Paris lies in its hidden corners. Get a bit further out of down so you can ditch the crowds and discover these off-the-beaten-path treasures by getting out of town and into the edges of Paris for the edgier parts of real Parisian culture.

I wade through the advertorials on Sortir a Paris to find events, Shotgun App for those underground raves that are where Paris’s real secrets are in the spotlight and of course the Visit Paris to keep on top of all the amazing free things the town hall puts on.

You’re Not a Tourist, You’re a Parisian in Training

Congratulations! You’ve survived it the end of Paris Olympics Survival Guide. I hope you have found all the tools you need to survive the metro, decipher the dress code, and even managed to order a coffee without embarrassing yourself. Your not just here for a few days, you’re officially a Parisian in training.

In a city as vibrant and dynamic as Paris, the Olympics are just a fleeting moment in time. But by embracing the local rhythms, the hidden corners, and the everyday joys of Parisian life, you’ll discover a deeper connection to this enchanting city that will last long after the games have ended.

Now go forth and conquer the Olympics (or at least find a quiet corner to enjoy a pain au chocolat away from the crowds).

Next Up in Our Paris Olympics Survival Guide: Food, Glorious Food!

And How to Eat It Without Breaking the Bank.

Make sure you have subscribed to our newsletter to be the first to recieve the next in this short series on surviving your long term stay in Paris during the Olympics.

Don’t worry if you can’t wait, you can continue your perusal of my tips on how to eat out in Paris on a budget or read my 7 secrets to eating like a local and as always, there are literally hundreds of reviews on my Google Maps profile.

Chef Tris Portrait Eat Like The French! June 24, 2024
Food Tour Guide
From the bustling streets of Paris to the quiet moments at home, my journey is one of passion, resilience, and a deep love for French cuisine. As Chef Tris, my transformation from a culinary expert and tech recruiter to a local food tour guide in Paris has been a delicious turn of events, blending my professional skills with my personal story of renewal.

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