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Rich in history and thriving with a modern, vibrant culture, Paris is truly a destination that attracts all sorts of people from all over the world. Before going, learning about Paris, especially the history and culture of Paris, can help better prepare you for your trip and make your time there all the more enjoyable.
The Renaissance or Age of Enlightenment re-established Paris as one of Europe’s most cultured cities. During this time, writers, architects, philosophers, politicians and economists all combined to make Paris a center for scientific and artistic advancement. However, while France was still largely Catholic, the ideas of John Calvin and Protestantism also began to permeate throughout Paris. And the late 16th century saw the Wars of Religion. However, during the proceeding reigns of Henri III and Henri IV, France began to grow and expand.
Louis XIV took the thrown in 1643 and France began its road head into one of its most violent periods—the French Revolution. His claim to divine right and economically crippling wars with neighboring countries created discontent among Parisians and France. When Louis XV took power in the 18th century, France lost much of its colonial holds abroad. Anger among the Parisian intellectual circle reached its height when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette assumed control. In 1789, protests in Paris started and the French Revolution had begun.
Modern Paris is still clearly the economic and political centre of France as well as being one of the most important cities in Europe. There is currently about 12 million people residing in Paris. Combining a futuristic feel with historic architecture and a time-honored history, the city is one of the most visited in the world.
Paris Customs and Parisian Demeanor
The city of Paris is not only the heart of French culture, it is a multi-national metropolis that is very modern and international. A typical stereotype of a Parisian is a wine and coffee drinking cigarette smoker. While this has some truth, the culture of Paris is also diverse and dynamic.
The French are very proud of their language and culture. Speak as much French as you can and do not expect everyone to help you if you just speak English to them. Be respectful and approving of their culture as well. Although many people in Paris speak English at a relatively high level, it is recommended to study and speak French while there if you can. Even if you don’t speak French, you will want to learn the basics. At restaurants, hotels and other places of business you will be greeted with a “Bonjour” upon entering. If anything, speaking French in Paris will help you in some situations and the local Parisians will respect you more.
Customer service in Paris is not that similar to the United States. Because of the French Revolution, the customer can sometimes be wrong. Take note of this, and note that this part of Parisian demeanor has roots in the country’s storied history. Parisian dining etiquette is also based on respect as well. You want to address the waiter or waitress in a professional, courteous way. Say “Monsieur” or “Madame” or “Madamoiselle” when addressing or calling them. While eating at restaurants in Paris, do it the Parisian way; drink coffee only after lunch or dinner and drink your cocktails before dinning. Tipping in Paris has its own format. Tipping taxi drivers ten percent is considered good. At eateries, 15 percent is okay.
General Tips and Warnings
Although France and Paris have a relatively low violent crime rate, tourists in Paris should be aware of pickpocket near Paris tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre Museum and others. Paris pickpockets and scams also have been known to occur at subways in Paris, trains and the Paris airport. Travelers are advised to make photocopies of important documents rather than carrying them on person. Always have your valuable things secured safely in your hotel or on your own person before going out.
Beware of tour scams and non-licensed taxi rides. Only take rides from licensed, official taxis. Local hustlers have been known to scam unknowing tourists out of money.
Be sure to check the current terrorist threat warning level before going.