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Number 104: Being a Fake Tourist

I am the first to admit that living in a foreign country (even France—or maybe especially France) can be exhausting.

It’s very true in Paris that the Parisians can wear you down, from the careless cigarettes in your face on a crowded street, to the glaring games of chicken on the narrow sidewalks, to their indifference and superiority when you try to converse in French, it all gets kind of old after awhile…

…especially after you have spent 2 weeks in a much friendlier and relaxed part of France being bowled over by overtly pleasant French people.


But being a fulltime temporary residence of a strange land does have its benefits.  In addition to the obvious ones: getting to really know your new home, making personal connections, experiencing life the way the natives do, etc., there is one less obvious benefit that I like to take advantage of every now and then: being a fake tourist.

I don’t do this very often, but there are days in my beloved France when I just want the mental break from trying to be too French, or from stressing out about getting my grammar and pronunciation right. I give my feet a break from wearing uncomfortable, but beautiful, shoes. I give up on eating small acceptable portions, and instead, I allow my casual, optimistic American upbringing to take the lead.

source: the

source: the

On these rare days I consciously let myself go into tourist-mode and breathe a sigh of relief.

Okay, so I don’t go as far as slipping on my running shoes, white socks, workout clothes and baseball cap. I don’t strap on a fanny pack and wander cluelessly in the bike lanes. I don’t use my really loud outside voice to press on as if no one else in this entire country can follow my conversation or understand English. And I certainly don’t make grand exclamations about how things would be better if the French just did it the American way.

What I do do is generously allow myself to see this city and country as if I had never set one teeny tiny toe on the other side of the Atlantic. I open my eyes wide and pretend I am a complete newbie, and…ssshhhh….I don’t speak French, at all. (Don’t tell anyone.)

Oh, and sometimes I scandalize those moody, dark Parisians by wearing a pink coat!

IMG_0402 2

On fake-tourist-days, I allow myself to peruse the tourist trinkets and bargain with the North Africans selling black market handbags. I stand in other people’s way and take pictures of important monuments. If the weather is nice, I’ll take a cheap cruise on the Seine. When the spirit moves me, I might buy a slice of pizza or possibly a hotdog, or even an American candy bar in lieu of a salad Périgourdine or a 3€ maître-made piece of chocolate. I will smile at strangers and I’ve been known to inquire as to how they are feeling. It’s all so freeing.



Hmmm….when I see all this freedom in writing, it occurs to me that maybe I ought to play at being a fake tourist more often, except of course for the speaking French part…I’ll save that luxury for the days when I really need a break.


maître: master

salad Périgourdine: Perigord salad; a salad originating in the Perigord region of France and consisting of crisp lettuce, cooked or preserved duck giblets, bread cubes, chopped walnuts, walnut oil, and wine vinegar



10 Comments Post a comment
  1. This blog is so inspiring! I love this posting, and being a fake tourist is such a fun thing to do. You make me want to go to france. I have a literary blog, so I love good writing. Keep it up!

    January 5, 2014
    • Hi. Thanks so much for your generous comment. I hope you make it to France sometime. It is such an interesting and amazing country, as a tourist, fake tourist, or full-time (temporary) resident. Thank you for reading and bonne année.

      January 5, 2014
  2. This was a great entry!!!! I love seeing Paris through your Ricky Mountain eyes!!

    January 5, 2014
    • Thanks Buffy. Most of the time I enjoy being a big city girl, but sometimes I miss the comfort, casualness and friendly folks of the West. x

      January 5, 2014
  3. You’re so right to do that. This post was fun to read, and remembered me of the things that made me tired when we lived in France.
    In the winter, all those dark clothes and sad faces.
    I liked to wander in the streets early in the morning before going to work, just to look at the architecture, and see the city slowly waking up.
    And sometimes I would take refuge in a café with a notebook to describe on paper what I saw or just read a book.

    January 6, 2014
    • Thank you. I love watching the city wake up too. Mornings are my favorite time in Paris (although nighttime is beautiful too).

      January 6, 2014
  4. This is a great idea. I am an American living in Nice and I have been known, on rare occasions, to pretended that I don’t speak French. There are days when it just takes too much effort. But I love the idea of being a fake tourist and taking a whole day off from the normal expat life. I’ll definitely try that. Thanks!

    January 6, 2014
    • Do give this a try. It’s an easy (and free) form of therapy. You’re right, somedays trying to fit in, speak the language etc., does take it out of you. Let me know how it works for you. Thanks for your comment and for reading.

      January 6, 2014
  5. Great blog! I am happy to find that there are other people in Paris feeling the same way I do! You are a brave woman wearing a pink coat in Paris amongst the sea of black and grey!

    January 14, 2014
    • Ha! Thanks. Isn’t it funny that you have to feel brave to wear colorful clothing here? A lot of conformity in gay Par-ee…

      January 14, 2014

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