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How to Survive Paris if You Don’t Speak French

“I don’t know French. Can I get by in Paris?” Yes. A big resounding YES.

Paris and Parisians are so pleasantly different from the stereotype. They are far from being rude, cold and unfriendly. People are as nice as strangers can be. They smiled at us, patted the little one’s head, and baby talked to her. Almost everyone speaks some English and their English is way better than my few words of broken French. How annoying it must be to have everyone simply assume they don’t know English when most of the younger people we meet are reasonably fluent in it!

You get what you give, so be nice. Learn to greet. Learn the golden words – please, thank you, sorry, and excuse me. I can count from 1-10. I know the days of the week and months of the year. I can read menus and order food. Traveling with a year-old child, the word I found most useful was “lait” – milk.  “Au lait, pour le bébé.” I used it in restaurants and super markets, and always got what I needed. Between the above, hand gestures, and google (search, translate, and maps) you will be fine.

Being Indian helped when it got complicated. I simply look for my paisanos, desi folks, people from the sub-continent. They are everywhere, often hidden in plain sight – working in stores and restaurants, running stalls at local markets, driving taxis. Find them. Find them and they will help with a smile. If you are not Indian, doesn’t matter. They usually know French, English, and one Indian language.

Paris is a very good idea ❣️

Vidya Murugan

Planner, traveler, reader, writer, blogger at Travel Stories and More, and ‘grammer. Alice, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts all rolled into one. Vidya’s travelogue isn’t just her creative outlet, it’s her happy space.

Vidya Murugan

Planner, traveler, reader, writer, blogger at Travel Stories and More, and ‘grammer. Alice, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts all rolled into one. Vidya’s travelogue isn’t just her creative outlet, it’s her happy space.

2 thoughts on “How to Survive Paris if You Don’t Speak French”

  1. Just came back from two weeks in Guadeloupe, French Antilles. We came far with the Franch we knew, it’s about knowing the important words like Murugan said. Also Google Translate is really helpful when in a country you need some help with the language

  2. I was also scared that no one would understand me while in France (even if I did study french for two years in middle school). Luckily I found that people were more than friendly, even to two obvious backpacker tourists!

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