Culture Magazine

Spot the American!

By Sedulia @Sedulia

What is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days.

This year, along with the not-so-perfect days of Paris's June weather, a lot of American tourists are here for what feels like the first time in a long while. Of course, as the number one tourist destination in the world, Paris has always had its share of American visitors. But in the past few years they have been more on the line of the tourists in Woody Allen's movies about Paris, who always seem to be staying at the Bristol or the Plaza Athenée.

The dollar is going up against the euro again, though, and this year is a more favorable time than last. So like the summer flowers... peonies at the moment... Americans are springing up around town. In the past few weeks, I've seen more people I know from the States than in whole years before.

Most Americans who visit Paris make an effort and don't just go out looking like slobs. But it is still pretty easy to spot them. How? (Note. There is nothing wrong with any of these looks. They're just not Parisian.)


Khaki pants or chinos
 are the go-to choice of the American male who wants to look nice without wearing a suit.

Just about 100% of the people you see in Paris wearing these are American. Usually they are learning French or already speak it a bit.


Big hair, lots of makeup, and big eyes
. (As on Miss Texas 2012, above, whose name, unsurprisingly, is Brittany.) 

Parisian women often have long hair, even tough businesswomen. But big hair is not their thing. Theirs tends to be lank. They do wear makeup. But you won't notice it.

And they keep their eyes at half-mast. 


Seersucker is a very respectable Southern choice for suits and New Orleans businessmen wear it all summer long. Personally, I love it... I am from the South. But in Paris, the most melting July day will still see French businessmen going off to the office in... wool. Respect!

Screen shot 2012-06-24 at 14.49.22

T-shirts with French on them. 

 T-shirts that say "I love Paris" or "Rock and roll is not dead!" must not sound as lame in French, because all you can find in Paris are English-language t-shirts. If you see someone wearing one with French words, you are probably looking at a foreigner. (The website for the one on the right is in English.)


Button-down shirts. With or without tweed jackets.
Americans from the less dressy parts of the U.S. often dress up in Paris by wearing a button-down shirt and a tweed jacket. But to a Frenchman, or indeed an Englishman (like the one in the photo), Italian, or German, button-downs and tweed are casual, country, or weekend wear and you probably won't be seeing them in the city.



In the past, it was pretty much a given that if you saw a grown man in Paris wearing shorts, he was a foreigner. This is changing (maybe it's global warming) and you do occasionally see real Parisians in shorts, especially pretty girls because it's been the style since last summer. But on the whole, shorts in the city are a foreign look. Most Parisians reserve shorts for sports and the beach.


Huge sneakers

After a day walking around Paris with an old classmate of mine who had never been to Europe, I had more sympathy for the American tourists I see, all wearing enormous white sneakers. Tourists walk more than anyone else, and sneakers are the most comfortable shoes. Still: not a Parisian look. If you want to look French, wear sandals or Converse. (Why Converse, I don't know. It's like a law.)

How do you spot an American in Paris?

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