** NOTE: This will be the last post on this blog containing a statement about adjustments needed while visiting Paris during the Covid-19 pandemic. Most public restrictions have been lifted, although many businesses and indoor spaces will continue to require masks for all customers. Please respect these requests. As always, please take whatever precautions that make you comfortable. And stay safe out there! Merci! **
“I love nothing. I’m Parisian.”
You certainly have to give Parisians credit for a collective good sense of humor when it comes to the impression they make upon some visitors to their city.
There’s a belief–even among proud Parisians themselves-that residents of the City of Light are in perpetual bad moods and that’s there’s little than can be done to raise their spirits.
Hence this bumper sticker seen recently in the city (and shown above).
In his book Stuff Parisians Like, Parisian celebrity sommelier and author Olivier Magny facetiously suggests that two things all City of Light residents love are:
1) Complaining (“The person who complains is the person who spotted the problem. The person who spotted the problem is the smart person. Therefore, the person who complains is the smart person. … Complaining has become the default mode for most Parisians, making the Parisian a constantly smart person.”;
2) Criticizing Parisians (“Pointing out the coldness or rudeness of Parisians is the surest way for Parisians to display to the face of the world [that they are different from other cold, rude Parisians] and, implicitly, their superiority. When a Parisian criticizes Parisians, he unconsciously crowns himself superiorest among the superiors.”
Well, at least some Parisians have a sense of humor about their image!
But truth be told, there are valid cultural reasons as to why many Americans consider the French to be stand-offish and rude and why, conversely, the French consider Americans to be demanding and needy, all of which I addressed earlier in this blog. Simply understanding that what’s “good” in one nation is considered “bad” in another (for example, restaurant waiters who check up on you throughout your meal are the norm in the U.S., but such behavior would be considered intrusive and impolite in France) goes a long, long way toward shedding that image of the rude Parisian.
And, of course, everyone having a sense of humor about these differences is a great place to start!
Something I noticed in my last trip, that might help visitors and may explain this impression about Parisiens: sometimes turists feel like they are “bothering” someone with a question and try to be as brief as possible, asking short phrases. WRONG! That many times offend the host, since from ancient times they expect you to start with “Excuse me, Madam, please “… and THEN start your question. With those magic starting words you will never find someone being unresponsive or rude in the answer. They just expect politeness – our objectiveness offends them. Take your time to be polite at the beginning, and you will love France each time a little more!