Above is a picture I took while eating dinner today. I am in Paris, and it feels like a city, any other city in the world. Just kidding. No, it really does not. From the spunky waiter who gets frustrated if you don’t say “bonjour,” to the expensive cheese sandwiches — there is no place like Paris, France. I love it here. People won’t take your sh*t, and thanks to Polly Platt (writer of French or Foe?) I learned that a smile DOES NOT go a long way. What an obtuse observation Madame Platt. Apparently, the French are not taught to smile from infancy. They are taught to work hard and be good citizens. A smile is given a lot of value. In fact, they believe Americans give away their smiles too easily. It’s something to be, how do you say, earned. Yes, Reader, EARN YOUR SMILING PRIVILEGES here in France. In fact, let me share some of Platt’s advice that has been helpful to me so far:
1. Say “Bonjour” at the beginning of your sentences when interacting with French people, and and “Au revoir” when you leave the conversation. They appreciate it a lot and give you better service.
2. If you use titles like “Monsieur” and “Madame”, you are treated better too. (Platt adds to never use messieurs-dames)
3. When you need help and you want to stop someone, just say–“Escusez-moi de vous déranger, M./Mme., mais j’ai un problem.” and if you don’t speak a lick of French say, “Je parle Anglais.” This basically means, I am sorry to trouble you sir/madame, but I have a problem. You use their language, you do your best to be respectful, and you get results.
* When I left the airport on arriving here, I looked really desperate trying to find my way around.
People also notice you panicking, and a helpful person might stop to help you anyways.
Like yesterday, a drunk man got up from his post to point me in the right direction.
What an angel!
4. Kissing comes later, when you first meet people you shake hands.
5. They love conserving energy, which is why DIM LIGHT is the way to go in Paris.
6. Flirting is absolutely normal. In fact, you are encouraged to flirt in order to get what you want. It’s part of the culture! Oh, and she says to flirt with the EYES. Platt calls it THE LOOK. If you get THE LOOK from someone (some dude/dudette) staring at you in a non creepy way, but in a “There’s something about you,” way…take it as a compliment. I believe this is one instance when it is okay to smile.
7. Okay, the smiling rule is kind of out of hand, in my opinion. I have encountered some of the younger generation in Paris, and I think some of them like to smile a bit more than the older generation. The thing is, culturally, when you smile at a complete stranger in France they are thinking the following things: (1) you are a hypocrite, (2) you are laughing/mocking them, and (3) you are flirting. So watch that smile! 😉
Read the book if you really want to have some insight on why Anglo, British, Americans and others believe the French to be rude. It’s not that they’re rude, it’s that we are different. Some things Americans do are considered rude. Like when a mess of us find ourselves in the Metro and decide to speak louder, louder and louder. Yeah, another thing you should know about the French. They are masters of whispering. They are soft spoken people. Which is why to them, we are screaming banshees sometimes.The book is interesting. I don’t agree with it entirely, but it has a good source of information.
I am writing next to a tall window in my hotel room. I can hear cars driving by, smog rolling in, people drinking and chatting away at the cafe across the street. Outside, people are saying “Salut” “bonne journée” and “Bonjour.” It’s been absolutely amazing being here, the only buzz kill is this darn jet lag. Even with the lag, I can’t wait to leave my room again. The sun won’t set until 10pm tonight, and I am itching to go back outside. Thanks to Platt and the people around me, I am understanding the city its people. In the past, I always kept to myself and tried not to talk to locals for fear that I may butcher their language. Turns out, they’re going to hate you for being a foreigner anyways! Might as well practice your broken French and just mingle with some locals.
This is technically my first full day in Paris. What did I do? I bought a baguette. Just a baguette. Then I rode the metro poking people left and right with the hard pointy ends.
Ah, it feels good to be here. I’ll keep you posted with interesting people reports. There are too many to focus on one at the moment.