Know the language
The people of Istres are extremely friendly, and are very helpful. Unlike most of France's other tourist oriented provinces, not many people know the english language. I remember at one point going into a gas station to get directions to the train station. The two people there didn't know what I was trying to convey in my broken french, but insisted on calling in a friend from across the street. I ended up reluctantly getting the word "train" conveyed by going "la...choo-choo" with a red face. They attempted to contain their laughter, but then I started laughing and we all were in tears.