Paris is Full of Friendly People!
Photos from the 1st and 2nd Arrondisements
As a visitor, you get back what you give
It always pains me to hear people speak ill of the French and Parisians specifically. But I hear that the French are cold, the Parisians are unfriendly, and that they all hate Americans.
I can tell you that they are none of that, at least not any more than the population of your town.
I come from Maine which is Vacation Land. And while we love that tourists come and spend their money here, many are anxious for the tourists to go home and leave us be. Any city that deal with heavy tourism has a love hate relationship with the people "from away" as we Mainers say.
The Parisians are really no different. They get tourists all year long and from all over the world, in absolute droves. And as with anywhere, tourists are mostly respectful. But I admit that I was often horrified at my fellow Americans while I lived in Paris. So many were rude, disrespectful, loud and demanding. And when you give that out, don't expect to get anything else back.
Any big city has city attitude. Even Boston and New York can be cold and rude. And dare I say it, I really didn't like New York. It was dirty, claustrophobic and busy. But I will admit that I went there in the 80s and only for two days.
Paris is huge, but amazingly friendly
The population of Paris in 2013 was 2.2 million people, with 10 million living in Paris and the suburbs. The average number of visitors to Paris each year is 70 million.
But in all my visits to Paris (11,) including living there for nine months, I can really only recall one very rude person. While I lived there, I had a pool pass and this gentleman and I argued over it's expiration date - in French. He had no idea that I was even American.
Waiters are notoriously rude, but they are rude to their fellow Parisians too, so they don't count. And the lady at the boulangerie who is short with me if I wander in during rush hour, she doesn't count as she's just serving her patrons efficiently. And the highly coiffed lady at a boutique who is curt with me because I haven't asked her for help rather than helping myself while I browse doesn't count either - I'm the one who broke the rules.
In general, I have found more rude people in my small hometown than in Paris.
During our trip in 2012, my family experienced Parisians who went out of their way to make us feel welcome and part of the neighborhood where we stayed. The waiters at "our" café on the corner waved at us every day as we dragged our tired carcasses past their windows to get to our apartment. They served us coffee or dinner or just deserts like we were locals.
Across the boulevard was a bistro where the waiter doted on us our first jet-lagged night and asked us what kind of music we wanted them to play in the restaurant! Up the boulevard was a restaurant with a professional waiter so friendly, he chatted us up between serving other diners, picking our brain for information about the coast of Maine because he'd grown up on the coast of Brittany.
Even when my husband and I visited in 2003 - the year Americans renamed French fries to Freedom Fries and poured out bottles of French wine in the streets, protesting the France's differing opinion on the Iraq War - the people literally fell all over us. We were given free drinks and people were sure to let us know that the disagreement was between our governments and not the people.
Some, but not all, of these people spoke English. But we all fumbled, sometimes quite badly, in French whenever we could. Even our 11 year old would say Please and Thank You in French. Did our effort to speak their language help? I'm certain it did. After all, if someone entered your place of work speaking only a foreign language, you'd probably think they were rude and annoying!
Helpful Guides to Paris
I really love Steves' guides. He taught me to travel the rails and hostels in Europe in 1986.
Don't be a tourist in Paris, be their guest!
So, remember, if you visit a place as a tourist, you are really a guest. Treat these people as you would when visiting your parent's dearest friends. Learn a little of their language, understand their customs, and respect that Parisians live, work, and play in this same city. It's their home, not Paris Disney.
Effort, respect, patience, and a big smile will get you everywhere and you'll experience a Paris that many won't. It will keep you going back for more. Because one visit to Paris is never enough!
Do you have questions about how to plan your visit this amazing city? Visit me at: ParisMadeSimple!