How to Look Like a Tourist in Paris in 5 Easy Steps

Forget about draping a chunky digital SLR camera around your neck, shuffling around in a tourist daze and practising your high school French on the locals. These no longer earn you the reputable status of being a standout traveller. Follow these five simple steps and in no time, you’ll be screaming ‘I’m a foreigner’ louder than tattooing the word touriste on your forehead.

How to Look Like a Tourist in Paris
Photo taken on boulevard st-germain, Paris 6eme

1. Promote yourself

Put on your loudest T-shirt with the one line humour, your sports team jacket covered with insignia, your trusty baseball cap or Akubra hat. You’ll get bonus points if you wear any clothing item that showcases the flag of your country. If you like to dress a little less casually, wear your corporate chambray shirt or that polo shirt with your company’s logo.

2. Cater for foot comfort

Wear your chunky running shoes everywhere, the kind you reserve for jogging and hiking back home. Espadrilles? These are for wusses. Once in your runners and white sports socks, you’ll feel right at home in Paris and the extra height in the ‘heel’ will make you look taller than ze French people. As alternative, put on the teva sandals you purchased for your Parisian holiday.

3. Dress in Parisian style

That beret you bought from the souvenir stall by Notre-Dame de Paris? Wear it out to all the major tourist sights. If it’s too hot, put on your I ♥ Paris T-shirt. When it starts to rain, pull out your wet weather poncho with the Tour Eiffel on the back because you can be rest assured that is it the epitome of Parisian chic and all French people wear them.

4. Accessorise

Be it on your back, over your shoulder or around your hips, load up half your suitcase belongings in a backpack or bum bag. As an added accessory, make sure you have bottled water protruding from the side. Très chic. If none of these appeal to your style, you can always carry a grocery plastic bag full of all those goodies that you can’t leave behind.

5. Eat like a local

Since the French love their McDo, surely that translates to eating on the run. Don’t sit in a café and enjoy your meal allowing time for it to digest. Non non non… Buy un panini (sic) to takeaway and eat it as you run around the streets of Paris. After all you’re wearing your runners, n’est-ce pas? You’ll get the odd looks from the Parisians but don’t take it heart. They’re only ogling that sandwich of yours.

How to Look Like a Tourist in Paris
A BYO pique-nique opposite Notre-Dame de Paris

Share your tips on how to look like a tourist in Paris in the comments below.

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How to Look Like a Tourist in Paris in 5 Easy Steps was last modified: December 20th, 2015 by Corinne Mossati

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Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.

48 Comments:

  1. Another good way to look like a tourist: tote your guidebook everywhere.  Paris was our first trip and it seemed like every street had something historical.  No wonder we heard a few snickering “Americains”.

    • The Jetpacker: That’s a good one! I’ve noticed some nationalities carrying their guide books everywhere. Some seem so obsessed with following text that they end up reading more than sightseeing!

      • Funny post and good point! And our frustration with seeing people trust guidebooks more than local advice, is one reason we embarked on our Grantourismo project (http://grantourismotravels.com/) this year, to inspire people to learn to live like locals when they travel and to seek out locals rather than other travellers.

        • Lara: Hi and welcome! There’s a lot to be gained by trying to integrate with locals than seeing their world through the barrier of a travel guide. You two are setting new standards with your exciting travel venture.

  2. I’m still wiping away the tears of laughter from this post.  And, that photo.  I want to ask if  it was staged, but I somehow I know it wasn’t.  Walking out of a Monoprix with only potato chips and Diet Coke in your bag is another sure way to look like a tourist. 

    • Kathy: Is it sad to admit that neither photo was staged? The first one I took from the café while having breakfast one morning. The second one baffled us when these people sat down opposite Note-Dame, got out the glasses and champagne and the chips from the plastic bag. I couldn’t not take the photo, could I? :)

      And Coke always makes me think of Champagne américain, from the old European Vacation movie!

  3. i like the first one, ‘Promote yourself’, I’ve only been to Paris once, and i noticed that most people looks really fashionable… or maybe just in Champs Elysse
     
     

    • Flip: The Parisians are very fashionable wherever they are, even when they’re just doing the shopping, which makes some tourists stand out like sore thumbs!

  4. very funny post! I’m so convinced i don’t look like a tourist when I’m in Paris, that I probably have a hard time seeing my own dead giveaways.  (the bulging backpack and water bottle are probably do it :)

    • Margo: I think we’ve all been guilty of a tourist faux pas at some point :) I have only carried a water bottle once in Paris, and that was because I was ill. But I kept it well-hidden in the bottom of my large handbag!

  5. This is waaaayyy too funny. Ok, I admit that I am a victim of one these ‘rules’. I always carry a bottle of water with me when I travel. As I recently read in David Lebovitz’s ‘A Sweet Life in Paris’, he candidly observed that most locals would rather die of thirst than be seen chugging – much less lugging around – a bottle of water.
    You hit the nail on the head when you included baseball caps and runners on your list. That first photo is hilarious! Makes me think of that all-American pop-baseball saying from the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come”. Apparently, if they make it, someone will buy it…LOL!!

    • Jen: I don’t understand some countries’ obsession with carrying water everywhere, Australia included. If we’re not out exercising or hiking, we’re not going to die of thirst! The baseball caps are everywhere unfortunately, and nothing sticks out more for an Aussie than to see the Akubra hat next to the Tour Eiffel! You’re right… make it and someone will (proudly) wear it! :)

      • You’ve got to be kidding Jen – In Australia you NEED to have and drink plenty of water. Aussie kids have it drilled into them to drink lots of water and take a bottle with them on outings. If you hadnt noticed, the climate is hot and heatstroke is common among locals, let alone people who arent used to it.

        Never be shy to carry water with you in Australia.

  6. We are heading to Paris in May, can’t wait.  Luckily we are going home to Canada for a few days before heading to France, because we need some fancier duds than the ones we were traveling through Asia with.  We are in trouble though, we were planning on doing picnics a lot in Paris to save on money.  I hope if we dress in style, bring a good looking basket and blanket we will look O.K.:)

    • Dave and Deb: I would also pick the right location for a picnic. The jardins de Luxembourg always struck me as a lovely place though Le jardin des Tuileries is my favourite. Mind you, I can’t say I’ve noticed too many people having a picnic, and certainly not sitting on the ground. Hmm…
      I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time. I volunteer to be your guide if I could fit in your suitcase! :)

  7. Great article !!! and we should add: 1.  “Shout”…. Shout when you speak…..mainly shout when inside a café or brasserie….Parisians is SO interested in your conversation…2. Go to an “etoilé” restaurant wearing the same pair of shorts you had on you during all the sightseeing…
    Kisses on both cheeks, Cristina  ;)

    • Cristina:
      1. Yes! I’ve witnessed that a few times, including the almost inconspicuous eye-rolling from waiters when tourists get loud.
      2. Sad… very sad. And if the white socks are showing… ah mon dieu! I’d rather be a little over-dressed than too casual when it comes to dining in Paris.

      Bisous! :)

  8. OMG I am literally laughing out loud at this post. Though it could be “How to look like a tourist” in ANY European city!

  9. PS:  I often ate in that exact park across from Notre Dame and had falafal from Maoz when I lived in Paris (with French friends!) and still go back on each visit for a nostalgic lunch….

  10. Great article, let me add a few more:
    1. Order your coffee with Milk
    2. Eat a Duo Bloc of Foie gras avec couteau plastique in Jardin Tuileries, ensuring you walk past Rue de Rivoli to get there
    3. Buy an Eiffel Tower keyring
    4. Propose to your partner in the eiffel tower
    5. Wear a fanny bag and make sure you walk as slowly as possible on the champs-elysees on a busy Saturday afternoon
    6. Exclaim as loudly as possible the second you arrive at Chartres cathedral “Where’s McDonalds ?”

    ps, Parisians prefer Quik restaurants, not McDo !

    • Frank,
      1. Nothing wrong with a café au lait or café creme as long as you order it for breakfast.
      2. Cringing at the plastic…
      3. Unless it is the only way to break a 500 euro note!
      4. Sadly, I have witnessed that cliché.
      5. As I said earlier in the article, accessorise!
      6. I got that in Rome. And I’ve never forgotten it!

      PS My French relatives sing the praises of McDo, and not just the younger generation!

  11. Thumb up in stumble. Very good article.

  12. Who cares what people look like when visiting other countries.  Are you people that shallow that it really makes a difference what they wear?  BTW, when a French family visits the US, they are VERY easy to spot (and smell), regardless of what they are wearing.  Why can’t you folks just let tourists be tourists, no matter where they are visiting.  They bring in much needed $$$ to the local economy.  Who give a crap if they are wearing white running shoes.  When I’m visiting a city and hiking miles and miles, I’m not going to wear stupid sandals. Jeeeeze!

    • I hear what you’re saying Duke, but I don’t agree. I think we’re talking about a contiuum here between trying to fit in and outright disrespect of local customs of the country YOU are VISITING.

      I have sweated my nards off wearing pants in Barcelona in 35 degree C weather after reading “the Spanish never wear shorts”, only to be surrounded by locals in teeshirts and shorts and sandels…I have also witnessed rude, ignorant tourists treat a sovereign country as there own personal playground and flout local customs.

      the reality is, if you’re only in a country for a week or two, you’re picked out no matter how much you try to fit in, but it’s worth a try! and besides, these 5 points are offensive in any country! seriously people…bumbags? give it up already…

      • Duke – I must have missed replying to your comment. As tourists, we need to be respectful to the countries we visit and their sensibilities. Even if we don’t agree with it. I don’t take issue at all with having to dress ‘modestly’ in countries that aren’t liberal in their dress code, just as I try to blend in when visiting countries where they take fashion and style seriously.

        As for your ability to discern French families by their ‘smell’, I can only interpret that you are referring to the fragrances they wear. Sniffing people and assigning a nationality sounds wrong to me.

        Pete – You’ve nailed it with the part ‘the country YOU are VISITING’. And I relate to your Barcelona story. I’ve sweated it in Dubai but I’ve also seen the looks some people got from the locals who were in thin strappy tops and short skirts.

        Despite the tongue in cheek tone of this article, this post gets a lot of google hits from people wanting to AVOID looking like a tourist when visiting Paris. It goes to show that many are taking the effort to do their research before they travel.

        Thank you both for your comments and for contributing to the discussion.

        • Hi Duke.

          Another very good reason to blend in is PICK-POCKETING. This happens a lot in Europe (I lost nearly 1000E and a new purse) and they very blatantly target anyone that looks like a tourist. By blending in you are protecting yourself.

          PS: enjoy travelling under the glares of everyone around you.

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  14. laughing…..
    so true – and as others said, photo looks sadly like a staged shot and isn’t….
    I really feel sorry for you tourists…. :) Can’t seem to get it right!
    Anyway, I only just picked this website and shall certainly read all the comments.
    Just don’t eat on the hoof; go to a park and eat there, leisurely, in style, spread yourself under a tree and go about it in a natural way – it IS in, it is lovely, it does you good and you won’t have the crumbs of your baguette all over your Nike trainers and your I♥Paris t-shirt, LOL…
    Shall enroll for the newsletter now; this is too good to miss.
    Love and happy times to all of you!

    • Kiki, you’re cracking me up :) Love the reference to baguette crumbs on I♥Paris!
      Eating while walking is one that surprises a lot of tourists. Last time I returned home from a trip to France and Italy, I was amazed at the number of people eating (usually fast food) as they’re walking around. And I don’t mean in the city during a lunch break when one is rushing around town, but nearly all hours of the day.

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  16. Very nice Gourmantic.

    Another dead giveaway is walking along the bicycle paths with your back to the traffic. A real Parisian, like myself, would never do that. Personally, I have perfected delivering a glancing blow as I cycle past, but with over 20 million visitors a year I guess I will never educate them all.

    Another giveaway is, sadly, falling for the dropped gold ring trick. Think people, no-one is going to sell you a big fat 18K gold ring for 10€; it’s a scam.

    I know it takes longer to stop for a meal in a restaurant, or to picnic in the Tuilleries, but doing so doesn’t mark you as a tourist, and will usually repay the time in additional enjoyment of this gorgeous city.

    • Merci Rouffian.

      We fell for the gold ring scam but we weren’t coerced to buy it. Just to give her a small token for the porte-bonheur! Sometimes, there is just no educating tourists because they don’t want to learn.

      I never saw the allure of a picnic in Paris. Far too many great restaurants to try :)

  17. I just remembered another. Try to gain weight before going to Paris. Parisians are surrounded by great food, so they must all be obese, right?

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  19. My first trip to Paris was marred by an incredibly loud couple who had come along with us from Los Angeles for the adventure. They spent the entire flight lecturing the younger people in our group about the perils of pick-pocketing and suggested we all buy those ridiculous pouches terrified tourists wear underneath their clothing. Needless to say, we did no such thing and were content to carry our purses and walk about the city as if we were meant to be there. The outfits they chose to wear were laughable at best: baggy, faded jeans; Universal Studios jackets with white faux-leather sleeves and light denim vests; fanny packs; and, of course, the obligatory white orthopedic trainers. Within an hour of arriving in Paris, their wallets were stolen as the rest of us looked on, happily clutching our purses.

    Dressing like a tourist isn’t just a good way to get sneered at–it’s also a great way to ensure you’ll be robbed before you ever reach your hotel.

    • Very good point you raise about attracting the undesirables through the clothes people wear. Blending in with the locals and striding in confidence (even if you’re a little lost) can do a lot for impressions. I must say we’ve never used those money pouches in France. Odd advice to give someone going to Paris!

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  21. Hilarious! I just retweeted a link to this!
    The comments are just as amusing!
    I DO feel like you need to choose your “look” while in Europe in general: 1) Try to blend (fashionably) with the locals or 2) Euro-backpacker style–make sure you look like you haven’t bathed in a few days and have slept in your clothes in a dubious hostel. That really is the only way you can get away with a backpack and Tevas…

    • Thanks! That’s an interesting observation about Euro-backpackers, though I don’t think Tevas and Paris belong together! :D

      • Ha! yes I DO actually agree about Tevas and Paris…
        My husband and I lead missions trips overseas and we have been going to Montenegro in SE Europe. We are in the planning stages right now for this summer and looking at flights…we are looking at one that goes through Paris. But I dont want to book that one because it would mean an entire other wardrobe for the stop over (overnight) in Paris!
        Theres no way I’ll go to Paris looking like a backpacker! ;) Kind of vain (especially since it’s a trip with spiritual purposes) but I can’t help it!

        HOWEVER, we are planning out 10th wedding anniversary there for November! Cannot wait!

        • That doesn’t sound vain to me, it’s respectful of a country’s culture and traditions :)

          Fabulous! We celebrated our wedding anniversary in Paris (in November as well!) during our last trip. If you need any information on places to eat, feel free to browse the Paris category or get in contact with me :)

  22. Look in the mirror

    I live in Paris and my favourite game is to pick out the tourist who is desperately trying not to look like a tourist. As if we can’t tell, or as if anybody cares except for them, that they are a tourist. It seems they are so self absorbed that they think others care at all how they look. You can usually spot it on their ‘judging, smarmy- aren’t I so chic’ faces.

  23. Many years ago traveled to Europe for the summer. When in Vienna I was pointed & laughed at wearing baggy jeans in Vienna, so I ditched the jeans and bought 2 skirts that worked with the rest of the clothes in my suitcase. Later, when I was asked directions in Paris (in French as though i lived there) I was delighted! I will be in France for a month is Summer, Paris for 3 days. I am packing with the hope that if people notice I am a tourist (that blank stare when spoken to in a language I really do not know, too much smiling), it won’t be because of my clothes. Thanks so much for this funny post. I think I’ll save the picnics for the countryside or beaches!

    • Hi and thank you for sharing your story. I can imagine how delighted you must have been to me mistaken for a local :) Have a wonderful time in France and bon sejour a Paris!

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