No Ketchup, Please!
Survival Tips on Travelling to France and Spain
By D. Fong

If you’ve never journeyed to France or Spain, here are tips to keep you on your toes and to help you to blend into the culture. – D. Fong

Tip #1:
Do not ask for ketchup. It immediately signifies you are American. Don’t eat fries or steak with this condiment at a restaurant. I love ketchup—but I made an effort to appreciate the French culture.

Tip #2:
Learn how to use public transportation, especially the metro and RER, the name for suburb light rails in Paris. It’s convenient and cheap if used regularly. I used the Carte Orange (around 20 Euro for one week) for travel inside central Paris as well as three zones around it. Prices vary if you want to go farther out into the suburbs. The trains stop at major landmarks. Be prepared for a lot of walking (and get plenty of foot massages).

Tip #3:
Fight off jet lag by resisting the urge to curl up and sleep. Jump right into the new time schedule and forget about the old one. Take a small nap at the beginning of your trip.

Tip #4:
Try not to use the booths to exchange dollars into euros. These booths look like kiosks and are available at train stations and airports. Instead, use an ATM machine, which requires a lower flat fee and a better exchange rate.

Tip #5:
My family and I rented a car from Hertz in Paris to drive through Western France, which was relaxing, since you can follow your own schedule. Also, make sure you know how to drive stick shift. Automatic transition may not be available.

Tip #6:
"Free," as in "you don’t have to pay," is "gratuit" in French. Useful.

Tip #7
: What is the first floor in America is considered zero floor or ground floor in France and Spain. Don’t get confused when you take elevators.

Tip #8:
Many French people smoke, including teenagers. Try to ignore it. There aren’t many ads attacking the tobacco companies here.

Tip #9:
Attention! Be careful of tiny cars going at insanely fast speeds on tiny streets. Pedestrians don’t normally have the right of way.

Tip #10:
Definitely visit the beach. It is terribly gorgeous.

Tip #11:
Pharmacies have flashing green crosses hanging outside. There’s nearly one on every block.

Tip #12:
Most restaurants and shops are closed Sundays.


D. Fong is a senior at a local San Jose high school. She plans on majoring in journalism.

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