In Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss, Anna’s parents ship her to boarding school in France. This YA tale about love, cinema, and France was rated an RT Top Pick! Says the reviewer, “ ” However, Anna may have found life in Paris a little bit less intimidating if she had been armed with Stephanie Perkins' Top Ten Things You Should Know About France Before Visiting! After the post check out the *Web Exclusive Review* and enter to win your own copy of this Parisian adventure.
When Anna Oliphant—the heroine of my novel—is shipped to Paris for her senior year of high school, she is afraid. She doesn’t speak the language, she’s familiar with the stereotypes, and she’s under the impression that the French do NOT like Americans.
Her worries are unfounded.
As time passes, Anna realizes that the negative associations some Americans have with France are the result of simple cultural misunderstandings, and she’s able to lose her fears and fall in love with the City of Light. (And with a cute boy!)
It’s just a shame that no one gave Anna the following list before leaving home:
The Top Ten Things You Should Know About France Before Visiting
(1) Memorize polite phrases. The French are more willing to help when you extend the courtesy of TRYING to speak their language. Learn the basic polite words: please, thank you, hello, goodbye. Memorize the magic phrase “Je voudrais,” which means, “I would like,” which can be used in restaurants, stores, train stations, anywhere! (And then don’t forget to add the “s’il vous plaît” and “merci!”)
(2) Dress nicely. It’s true. The French dress better than us. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy a new wardrobe, but it does mean that you should treat your host country with respect. Ease off the T-shirts and shorts. Ditch the white athletic sneakers.
(3) Take your time. French culture calls for savoring life, especially food! Anticipate your meals to take longer. MUCH longer. There’s a common misconception that Parisian waiters are rude, but it’s polite for servers to be leisurely—they’re giving you time to enjoy your meal!—and it’s actually considered rude for them to hover over your table.
(4) Don’t smile. It’s often shocking for Americans to learn, but in France, it’s seen as silly (and, frankly, kind of dumb) to walk around with a smile on your face or to smile at someone you’ve never met before. Save your smile until it’s earned, and you’ll earn the respect of the recipient.
(5) Lower your voice. The good news: France doesn’t think America is the loudest country. (That honor goes to Italy.) The bad news: We’re still way too loud! Try not to be overheard by anyone but to whom you are speaking with.
(6) Tipping. You never have to tip in cafés/restaurants, because the tax and tip are included in your bill. This often makes Americans feel guilty, so if your service is good, you can leave an extra Euro or two on the table. But it’s not necessary.
(7) Restrooms. “Les toilettes” are usually located below cafés/restaurants, so look for the telltale set of descending stairs.
(8) Use the métro. It’s easy, safe, and affordable, and it’ll take you anywhere. Yes, the trains will be crowded during rush hour. Yes, watch out for pickpockets. But in a reasonable, non-freaked out way!
(9) Skip the top of the Eiffel Tower. Unless you have your heart set on it, don’t bother. You’ll waste valuable hours for a view that you can find in dozens of other locations across the city.
And finally . . .
(10) Slow down. Stroll gardens, cemeteries, and smaller museums. Take frequent breaks inside boulangeries (bakeries) and pâtissieres (dessert shops). Observe your surrounding architecture. Beauty and history are EVERYWHERE.
- Stephanie Perkins
Have these ten tips left you longing for a trip to Paris? Be sure to check out the *Web Exclusive Review* of Anna and the French Kiss and then enter to win your own copy below!
GIVEAWAY ALERT: Three lucky winners will receive a copy of Anna and the French Kiss. To enter leave a comment on this blog about why you’d love to spend a year in Paris. Or email your comment here with your US mailing address and the subject line “Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss Giveaway.” The giveaway winners will be announced on February 10th.
BLOG UPDATE 2/10/11: And the winners are ... Lacey, Amanda R. and Julie A.