21 Parisian things: Cultural guide on the top things to know about Parisians

Eiffel Tower in Paris

Have you ever wondered what makes Parisians different from Americans? Well, keep on reading because we have the answer!

Paris is a city that oozes with culture and history. It can almost be an intimidating place for first-time visitors, but it’s also one of the most exciting cities in the world!

The French capital is jam-packed with things to do and see. There’s art, fashion, food, culture, architecture, parties… you name it!

But what about the Parisians themselves? Curiously, they have perfected their own unique way of life and character.

There are many ways that we could describe what makes someone “Parisian”. We reveal this and more on this post of the top things they do and that show you that you are dealing with a true Parisian.

Enchanté!

Man infront of Eiffel Tower with wine bottle one of many parisian things to do
Baguette, wine bottle, walking without a purpose, or to flâner.

What makes a Parisian – Parisian!

1. Parisians love to “Flâner” in the streets of Paris

First, they take great pleasure in enjoying a leisurely walk through Paris’ streets, window shopping in the romantic and hype stores of the neighborhood of The Marais while sipping their local coffee or just walking down the streets while watching unknown people live life. People watching at its best.

Flâner means to ‘stroll around aimlessly’. And Parisian’s are indeed connoisseurs of enjoying Paris’ beauty and while spending time just chilling around the city.

They have mastered how to be alone in a crowd and actually know that Paris can always offer something interesting for the eyes: from street art to hidden courtyards, Paris is their playground. It’s all about relaxing and enjoying the city’s atmosphere in a more intimate way.

2. Parisians are known for their sense of style

They have a reputation for being chic, with high standards of elegance, wear designer clothes, are known for the French beret hat, and good style in general.

This is well-known: Paris is one of the most fashion capitals in the world. Which means that Parisians take their clothes seriously.

It’s not uncommon to see women who wear designer clothing every day with their Hermes handbag or men accessorizing with Louis Vuitton wallets and belts if you go venture into certain neighborhoods of the city.

Typically more formal while in work settings, they tend to dress chic and comfy, a style that seamlessly transitions into after work events.

The key in rocking this style? Pick a pair of white sneakers / runners, wear some black colors – even in Summer, it’s authorized by the fashion police! – and accessorize with a scarf whether you are a man or a woman!

Set of Paris Metro signs on a white background
All signs lead to the Metro!

3/ They take the subway to go anywhere

In Paris, public transportation is key. It’s natural to go to different places – and even all around the town or the country – without never having to drive.

Paris is one of the most traffic congested cities in the world, so taking public transportation gives Parisians a chance to relax while they go about their busy schedules. If you’re a true Parisian, you will rarely use a car, cab or an Uber.

You would usually go to work, join your close ones or go shopping by taking the subway, the RER, the bus or the “velib”, as French people call their urban bike-sharing system.

4/ Parisians have a reputation for being rude

The truth is Parisians tend to be more direct than Americans or Canadians which can make them appear rude. There are two reasons:

First, they may talk rudely or be (too) frank when talking to unknown people. This is a fast-paced city, they don’t want to take the time to answer, give advice, and will usually get straight to the point.

Second, a Parisian who “respects its proper education” will like to complain! Yes, they hate waiting in line, the heavy traffic, not getting a table in their favorite restaurant or anything else that doesn’t meet their standards. And they will tell you about it!

But hopefully, this reputation for being rude doesn’t always hold true. Be considerate if they don’t greet you first and try not to take their distance or silence personally; they may just be tired or in a rush. 

Paris' Champs Elysees street at night with lots of traffic
Paris traffic all day, all night – cars everywhere!

5/ While driving, they honk their horn all the time

For the few Parisians that do use a car, know that they have a reputation for being mad drivers. But isn’t that in line with other major capitals?

You might however listen to a real honking concert when walking in Paris. French drivers love honking their horn if someone doesn’t respect the rules of the road or if he or she has made an error (like not respecting a stop sign). As we just stated, they like to complain and honk about it!

But that’s not all, drivers are also known for knocking other people’s cars when trying to park their Twingo, Fiat 500 or Smart – tiny compact urban car – so beware if you rent a car.

Couple eating a French croissant in a Paris Bakery
Eating a flaky croissant, just one of the many Parisian things to do!

6/ One obsession: Food

Parisians love to eat and they are experts at it. Paris has the reputation of being a food capital; and people from all around the world travel there just for getting an opportunity to try the French delicacies!

They usually know how to cook but also do love eating out in restaurants, whether it’s enjoying a coffee in a local café, sharing a dinner in a typical bistro along the Seine, or in one of those famous Michelin starred institutions.

If you want to become a true Parisian, you will need to clear your schedule from 12PM to 2PM for your “Pause déjeuner”, take your time and enjoy it!

It’s so sacred that many shops or public institutions will close for this amount of time and don’t even get us started on Sunday’s… Usually, they just close for the full day.

7/ Be open minded about religion

Though France is mainly a Catholic country, it’s not uncommon to find Parisian people who practice Judaism, Muslim, Buddhism…

Parisians will typically not let religion get in the way of work or friendship, and just accept that others have a different background from theirs.

The Parisian culture is therefore quite open minded and will not impose any kind of pressure on its inhabitants or visitors.

8/ Another top Parisian thing: People watching

It’s a Parisian thing to be very interested in what happens in the surroundings. Their eyes are like magnets, they can’t look away from people around them.

It’s quite common to notice them sitting at a café, sipping their hot chocolate or black coffee along with their croissants, legs crossed, possibly some shades on, and observing other people’s behavior around them.

It might sound creepy, but if you head to Paris, give it a try! Spend some time to sit, relax and observe the beautiful city you are in and its inhabitants.

9/ They enjoy talking for hours

If you get to interact with a group of Parisians during your trip in Europe, you’ll quickly understand that they love talking for hours and hours, and fantasize about the world, what it could be, who they could become.

That’s what they call in French “Refaire le monde”.

During one of those improvised informal parties with their dearest friends known as “apéro”, they would sip a cup of wine from their sofas or sitting on the ground, and free their mind from any imagination limits until sun comes up!

10/ They cross the street at any time

Another typical behavior of those French metropolitans: They cross the street whenever they want. Because they’re in a rush or because they hate waiting, they simply do. Look left, look right and let’s go!

You might actually also spot them on a phone call while crossing the road – even if there’s traffic!

11/ Parisians live in tiny little apartments

If you’ve been to Paris, or seen pictures of this beautiful city, you might have noticed that the French capital feels tight.

One narrow and high Haussmannian building after the other one, the intra-muros Paris – which means the center area of the capital, between its walls – is mainly made of tiny studios or 1-room small apartments.

With an obvious lack of space for a crowded town and a very high demand, the cost of living there is quite high and does not allow students to find a bigger and more accessible space than this tiny “Chambre de bonne” under the roof of a 7-floor building without an elevator.

12/ The French language

In Paris, it’s not rare to find Parisian people who do not speak English or maybe another language besides French!

Next time you visit Paris, know that it’s always better to know a bit of French to at least introduce yourself and to start engaging in conversation.

You’ll see that a simple “Bonjour Monsieur” and “Merci Madame” can take you a long way!

13) They value their close relatives

To Parisians, family and friends is an important part of their llives.

They make time to meet with their buddies after-work during the week, shop together on Saturday afternoons or party at night.

On Sunday’s, they make time to enjoy a nice meal with family – or what most would call a feast!

They’ll clear a few hours off their schedule, or just the entire day to meet with their relatives and enjoy one of those 5-Course meals: From canapes to starters, the main course, a cheese platter, and dessert with coffee, no step will be forgotten.

14) Paris is known for being very formal

Parisians tend to be more formal than people from other areas of France.

Parisian culture tries to respect people and their titles, so if you’re ever talking to someone who’s a manager or someone with a doctorate degree- they will refer to them as “Monsieur” or “Madame”.

A bit controversial, but even though they might seem rude, they are polite people! If they don’t know someone, they would use the formal “Vous” when they talk to someone, rather than the informal “Tu”.

15) Parisians truly enjoy culture

Paris is the cultural hub of France and the capital metropolitans value this highly.

You’ll see them attend the opera, discover independent shops, go to concerts, visit a museum or some art galleries during their leisure time!

16/ They eat or sit outside no matter what

Parisians can brave any weather situation and won’t be fazed by the rain or any temperature.

Paris can be very rainy, so, whenever there is a ray of sunshine, they will seize the opportunity to sit outside at their favorite café or walk by the quays of the Seine.

Whenever it is cold or rainy, it’s also not uncommon to see them asking for an outside seat if they are at least covered by those red terrace awnings, as they enjoy smoking their cigarettes while sharing a glass of wine or a fresh beer.

17/ Parisians flirt in the streets

Paris, city of lovers… Those metropolitans are very open to flirting and is a city where you can expect people to be more proactive.

If you ever visit Paris, don’t be surprised if someone stares at you or engages in conversation with you!

18/ Another Paris thing: Smoking

Paris is one of the most smoke-dense cities in Europe. In fact, around 35% of the French population is smokes regularly!

There are laws that forbid smoking inside public buildings, but Parisians wouldn’t mind taking a 5 minute break on the terrace of a cafe before going back to their office.

They explain the habit of smoking as a sort of freedom: Parisians are free!

19/ They avoid the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame and any other touristic areas

Parisians prefer to avoid Paris’ most famous attractions.

You’ll probably not see many of them around the Louvre, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, Montmartre or the Eiffel Tower.

Same as for the Champs-Élysées. Contrary to what we could think, only 5% of Parisians shop on the famous avenue. They would prefer independent shops in a more quiet and typical “rue” of the Marais for instance.

They would eventually go there for a special event, off touristic season, or during a weekday when Paris is not busy. But overall, they’d rather go to a more intimate place.

20/ Public drinking is common around Paris

They sure know how to make public drinking look fancy!

Sitting on the banks of the River Seine, sharing a bottle enjoying som fun gossip… Parisians just have this ability to make everything stylish.

Public drinking is tolerated around the city so you might see group of people partying in the streets late at night

21/ They carry their baguette under the arm

Last but not least, French people do carry their baguette under their arm. Yes, this cliche did come from a true story after all! 😉

But there is one thing Parisians don’t usually tell is that they can’t resist giving it a bite before they even reach their home! Still warm, tender and crispy… legend says it’s the best bite!

A few more questions about Paris you might be wondering about

What are Parisians known for?

The one thing they are mainly known for is probably their distinctive sense of fashion.

They often care about originality, imagination, and art when it comes to designing clothes, jewelry, furniture and more.

What is Parisian culture?

Parisian culture is recognized for its unique French touch, humor, chic but also romance. Remember the movie “Amelie Poulain“?

They generally have a passionate approach to life. You can see that Parisians are very lively people who like to enjoy every single moment of their lives!

It is often said that they “Work to Live” whereas in the United States it is often stated that you “Live to Work”. It says it all!

What is special in Paris?

Dare we day everything? Paris is a captivating city full of fascinating people. Paris is the capital of France and is one of the most visited cities in the world!

Paris is known for attracting rich culture, gastronomy, fashion, art and much more.


Voila! Now you know all about Parisians… well, almost!

If you want to go deeper into the culture, make sure to check out our virtual Hangout with a Parisian and learn some quirky stories about Paris and its inhabitants!

And if you head to Paris anytime soon, make sure to book a Woyago tour of Paris organized by us locals!