Paris Survival Guide

By: Josie Stephens

Ordering food/drinks:

Je voudrais [juh voo-DRAY] - I would like…

Un/une [uh]/[oon] - one/a

Une carafe d’eau [oon CAH-raf doe] - (free) tap water jug

Une bouteille d’eau [oon boo-TAY doe] - (paid) bottle of water

Une verre d’eau [oon ver doe] - (at a bar) a glass of water

Un bière [uh bee-AIR] - a beer

Vin blanc [vaw blaw] - white wine

Vin rouge [vaw rooj]- red wine

Sans [saw] - without

Avec [ah-VEK] - with

Par carte [par cart] - (paying) by card

L’addition [la-di-SION] - the check

Manger [mahn-JAY] - to eat

Boire [bwar] - to drink

Un boisson [uh bwah-SUH] - a drink

La nourriture [la ner-i-CHUR] - the food

Je prends… [juh praw] - I will drink…

Gratuit [grah-too-EE] - free

Aussi [oh-SEE] - also

Speaking in public:

S’il vous plaît [see voo play] - please

Merci [mer-SEE] - thank you

Merci beaucoup [mer-SEE bow-KOO] - thank you very much

De rien [deh ree-UH] - you’re welcome

Pardon [par-DOE] - (trying to pass by someone) pardon

Excusez moi [ex-CUZE-eh mwah] - (to ask a question) excuse me

J’ai besoin d’aide [jay bez-WAH ded] - i need help

Où est… [oo ay] - where is…

J’ai une question [jay oon kehst-UH] - i have a question 

Ici [ee-SEE] - here

Oui [wee] - yes

Ouais [way] - yeah

Non [nuh] - no


Bonjour [bow-JURE] - saying hi in the morning/afternoon

Bon journée [bow jure-NAY] - saying goodbye during the day/afternoon

Bon soir [bow swah-r] - saying hi in the evening

Bon soirée [bow swah-RAY] - saying goodbye in the evening 

Bonne nuit [bone new-EE]- goodnight (only when going to sleep)


Le gare [luh gar] - train station

Le métro [luh met-RO]- métro/subway

Le train [luh tren] - train

Une billet [oon bee-YET] - ticket 

Cultural notes:


Clubs open very late at night and stay open very late at night (aka early in the morning)

For certain clubs you need cash to enter

For a lot of clubs you need to dress up with a dress and heels ideally (Try not to seem American or they might not let you in. Don’t go in a big group and don’t let guys in your group or you risk not getting in).

People eat dinner a little later than in the US

They spend a lot of time eating and drinking and chatting at dinner. Therefore, the waiter service tends to be slower.

You usually have to ask to get the check, they won’t just bring it

Sometimes you pay somewhere up front after the meal, not necessarily at your table

As with all of Europe, pickpocketing is very common. Keep your bags in front of you. A technique I use to avoid being pickpocketed is walking really fast and always being aware of your surroundings in public.

When on the escalators, stand on the right side if you’re standing still, but walk on the left side if you’re going to walk like they’re stairs.

No tips at all

It’s technically illegal to drink in public, but unlike the US, in actuality, you won’t get in trouble at all for drinking in public unless you’re being rowdy or if you’re a danger to yourself and others. You can have open bottles in front of cops and they don’t care (but better to avoid it in front of them I suppose).

People do dress nicer on a daily basis even for everyday things. You can obviously wear whatever you want as long as you’re covering your privates, but I personally felt uncomfortable wearing really cropped shirts or short shorts because pretty much no one does.

The culture is overall more quiet. Don’t talk too loud on the streets but especially not in the metro or in restaurants. Just match the volume of the locals (not other foreigners because they often speak too loud too).

When meeting a local in a friendly setting (not a total stranger), two cheek kisses is the custom instead of a hug or a handshake. One kiss on the left cheek, then switch to the right. It’s not an actual kiss with the lips, more of just a pressing together of your cheeks while making the kissing sound. Two men will typically go for a handshake instead, but if it’s a man and a woman, it’s the cheek kisses, and if it’s two women it’s the cheek kisses.

You can get into a lot of paid events for free or a discount with a student ID (or sometimes even if you’re just under 26).