3 Things That Will Surprise You About Paris

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SGMT France Paris Bridge Street Lamp posts

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1. The French are nice.

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Parisians in particular have a reputation for being aloof and snobbish, and as tourists from a third-world country, we were prepared to be ignored or looked down on. Surprisingly, none of the French people we met were even remotely rude. Hotel receptionists were friendly and helpful. An elderly gentleman on the train valiantly tried to engage us in conversation even though his English and our French were minimal to nonexistent. The French doctor who shared our couchette to Venice treated us to a breakfast of brioche and coffee. A middle-aged lady in Nice asked my opinion on whether she should buy black or red boots. (Red!) And two guys in suits took the table next to ours at a KFC and spoke to us in Tagalog! Of course, it helps if you are polite yourself, smile a lot, and make attempts – even laughably poor ones – at speaking French.

My sister asking for directions in Nice
My sister asking for directions in Marseille

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2. They can tell we’re Filipinos.

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Not everyone, of course, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve bought a sandwich or encountered guys selling Eiffel Tower miniatures and gotten asked, “Philippines?” I have no idea how they do it because even I can’t always distinguish Filipinos from other Southeast Asians.

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3. Paris doesn’t have to be expensive.

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It is known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but there are many quintessentially Parisian things you can do for free. A stroll along the River Seine is romantic and invigorating and costs absolutely nothing. The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and other museums have free-entrance days; entrance to the Notre Dame cathedral is free every day. The Jardin du Luxembourg and local favorite Place des Vosges – free. And there’s no charge for taking photos in front of the ultimate Paris landmarks: the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. You’ll have to pay to go up either structure, but do you really have to? Many say the best view of the Paris skyline is from Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, which is – you guessed it – free.

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