I can't help but laugh at the French sense of humor expressed in the film Amelie
(Le fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain)
during (Jamel Debbouze) Lucien's recitation of the merits and character of the vile "Collignon."
One negative effect of the film "Amelie" is intensified overcrowding and gentrification of Montmartre,
but let's face it, parts of this movie are funny and overall it's a good film.
French cafes are crammed full, especially out on the streets. You walk past and someone at one table has her skirt overlapping on the pants of the man at the next table to her, and both are turned away in different conversations. How do they stand being so close?!
I don't know, coming from Australia I missed my personal space. However, this explains something about the way the French are in public:
They speak more quietly. And so should you.
The idea is, the person at the next table shouldn't be able to hear too clearly the details of your conversation. To speak loudly is vulgar and boisterous and rude.
Coming from Australia and also having a naturally quiet voice, for me this wasn't a problem. Where I've seen for example, Americans, get into trouble is their naturally loud voices. It just doesn't gel in Paris and you see it everywhere - it's not anyone's fault, they just don't realise they are meant to turn the volume down a notch or ten.
Of course these observations are coming from the point of view, of one American, suggesting the direction of some of our differences and are meant to help a novice traveler rather than make a definitive statement.
You may have heard others complain, that the French, especially Parisians, are rude, snobbish, or arrogant. I'd say such comments reflect more the complainant than their subject.
In my experience, the French—in general—are a gracious people, they are passionate, like to debate, and speak their mind openly. They, are not quick to smile perfunctorily, so when you do get a smile, you can be sure that it’s meant.
Ask before taking pictures of people, even of French friends.
Once while taking a picture of friends at a workplace coffee bar, I noticed that they were laughing as if hearing a joke. I asked what was so funny and they told me that other patrons in the room had asked why I was taking their picture. Rather than explain that I was a "common' tourist," they said that I was a journalist! How’s that for a promotion?
I learned my lesson and later when I wanted to take a picture of three policemen near Place de la Concorde, I asked first.
One imposing officer stepped up and refused my request. For a second I was about to retreat, but saw at the corners of his lips, a small upwards turn. Encouraged, I pleaded my case. They relented and I got my picture taken with all three.
What ever you do, don’t try to get after dinner coffee and desert at the same time.
It won’t happen!
I just returned from Paris and every experience I had with parisiennes was positive. I expected people in the industry (hotel clerks, waiters, tour guides) to be friendly, but I found people on the street were just as friendly. I asked for directions several times and people were eager to help. I had a problem with the machine at the metro one day, and a nice young girl offered to walk me through the directions. As others have said though, there are things to remember in France:
*it helps to return courteous remarks, such as when someone says "bonjour, merci, bon soir, and to attempt to pronounce the words correctly.
*sometimes people are having a bad day or just an ordinary day and may not be as upbeat as someone who is on vacation.
*the french do monitor their children, their behavior, and their voices - and sometimes Americans can be loud and obnoxious.
I've just returned from a wonderful vacation in Paris and I have nothing but great things to say about the folks that live in this magnificent city. Everyone was polite, helpful and friendly, I have no complaints whatsoever.
Here are some tips that may be helpful:
1.You don't have to take a French course to have a good time in Paris, but there are some expressions that you simply have to know: bonjour, s'il vous plaît, merci beaucoup, excusez-moi.
2.Do your homework! If you plan your itineraries carefully, you won't have to ask for directions all the time and bother the locals with annoying questions.
3.Silence is golden! The French are not fond of noise. I remember this girl on the subway that was carrying a loud radio and this infuriated the other passengers.
4.Do you really have to take so many pics? When I visited Notre Dame, everyone was taking photos of the interior, even though it was forbidden. That's extremely rude and disrespectful.
5.Paris is the most elegant city in the world, so leave the flip flops and baggy t-shirts at home.
6.Don't be late! The French are punctual and very efficient.
7.Politics are always a touchy subject, in France or anywhere else in the world.
We often got "a cold shoulder" from waiters in Paris... It was our only one disappointment there...
What we consider as a rude waiter? Let see... It's the one who ignores you for a long period of time, is late in providing you with what you need and makes you wait ages for the bill.
It's exactly the service we got in Paris restaurants... especially out of main tourist areas.
Than we found out that: "In Paris a “bad” waiter is one you see too often, who doesn’t have the know-how to check on your table with just a quick glance or from afar; the one that brings your bill too quickly, which in French social customs is extremely impolite, and equivalent to trying to get you to vacate your seat fast... What you think of as “being ignored” for long periods of time translates in French culture and customs in you being welcome and expected to stay for a while."
There is a link below with a very helpful article about those cultural differences, Unspoken Code and more..
Be prepeared and you wount be disappointed.
Many people view Parisians as unfriendly and arrogant.
We just came back from a 7 days visit to Paris and to our surprise we had many positive experiences.
When we were obviously looking for the right direction, people went out of their way to help us
On the metro, young people left their seat so that my wife or myself should not stand up.
Frequently we were greeted (example in the elevator) with bonjour, bonne journée ....
For us, Paris had a friendly face
I lived in Paris for 3 months while studying. The Parisians are not the stereotypical snobs that they are made out to be, but they are people from a major city that is constantly barraged by heavy tourist traffic. I had plenty of Parisians who were very nice and helpful when I needed directions or help. Think of them like New Yorkers, but more European. They tend to keep to themselves. Unlike in many places in the US, they will very rarely engage strangers in any sort of contact or conversation if there is no reason to. They are not going to smile at you on the métro. (I am speaking for public places like the métro, the streets, etc. Bars, clubs, etc are where you may meet and socialized with locals)
Also, they speak much quieter than people do in the U.S. This is most noticeable is when you are on the métro. If you are traveling with others, take a moment and notice the volume level in the train. The train itself may screech on the tracks, but, for the most part, the Parisians speak barely above what we americans would consider a whisper. If you are yelling and being significantly louder than the rest of the train, expect some annoyed stares. Do your best to keep your voices down, and you will find that you fit in much better, and have a more pleasant experience.
This is just to say, we were there in November and although I am not a smoker, I noticed smoking everywhere and it is no big deal. Not like here where so many are judgmental. It is refreshing to find tolerance. In fact, my friends did not in any way deter their friends from smoking in their apartments...even though they themselves were nonsmokers. I was impressed with their tolerance...their sense of putting friends before judgment! Very, very refreshing. People smoked on the streets, etc. So, relax and enjoy this wonderful city.
I am not sure how a touristsy place like Paris has their residents very rude and very snobbish. What happened if tourists will stop going to Paris? What happened if everybody stop going to France and they are isolated?
I heard many times before that Americans save France twice. But, is that enough for the French people to be friendly? Or is it just their customs?
One Parisian (CestVT) explained to me that the Parisians cannot be all smiling all the time when they have to do their daily regular living, i.e., taking the train. She said that I can't be smiling when it is too crowded and there is so much traffic!
I agree with her but I have been to many tourist destinations like for example, Hawaii. You go to Honolulu and the buses are crowded and the streets are filled with tourists. But, the Hawaiians are still friendly. Although they get disturb by tourists all the time and their space is crowded, they are still very friendly and very welcoming to tourists.
Is it because they have the "hang loose" mentality? The island people are all smiles and very helpful to tourists. If you get lost, and ask for directions, they don't treat you like crap.
Just a thought for the day.
This May I was in Paris with my friends and none of us speak French. We ask some French woman for a direction in English, and she just started waving her hands meaning "Don't speak English to me. Just go away". It was really rude. And the French in the hotel we stood were nothing better. They understand what you are saying but they are not responding. They either ignore you, or if it's convenient for them they'll just point at sth. No words uttered.
However, I guess not all French are alike, but... that was my experience.
Hope you'll have a great time :)
While standing in line at Nôtre Dame Easter 2003, waiting for the church to open up for the Pâques mass, I turned around to strike up a conversation with a couple from Atlanta; when I turned around a French man had ducked in front of me! I tried to explain to him that he had skipped line but apparently he didn’t understand the concept.
For the 1st time of this entire trip I didn’t have the ability to convey my meaning, not even thru hand gestures. Presently, he moved off to the side to carry on a conversation with another person so I moved on up to claim my spot RIGHT NEXT TO THE GATE (sucker). The Atlanta couple & I shared a moment of bemused eye rolling.
Perhaps it's true what they say about the fundamental difference between the English & the French: the former know how to queue up in line and the latter don't! Now I don't wish to further any stereotypes but I do think it was funny and it was definitely an eye-opening cultural experience.
So the best thing to do is stake your claim on your spot but if someone happens to move ahead of you just chalk it up to cultural differences, try not to be offended, laugh it off. You are here to have a good time, attitude is everything and a good one will carry you far. It is France after all - c'est la vie!
Address: 6, Place du Parvis, Ile de la Cité, 75004 PARIS (Ile de la Cité - you can't miss it - it's at the historical center of Paris!)
Photo: March 2001
Yes Parisians can be rude; it is the culture and, well perhaps a general distaste for many things that are happening here in France since we changed over to the euro. I am troubled to say that you will probably encounter it here in Paris more then many other cities such is life. It is unnecessary to lecture you on how to be considerate or polite, as this is not going to change the rudeness you are going to encounter, and this is something you have to take responsibility for. I would suggest however that you take any rude encounters, how do you say, with a grain of salt, and consider it part of visiting France, perhaps the entertainment. With many places in the world you will encounter some wonderful people and some not so wonderful. Paris has many beautiful experiences waiting for you to discover, to let a rude encounter diminish that would be to let a cloud passing over the sun ruin your week. There is nothing you can do but relax and let it pass you buy. I have lived her on and off for 10 years, my children are French-American, Oui, je parle français, (which only allows me to be rude back when I feel like it), and many of my closest friends are Parisians, (they dislike the French more then most.) All of this is what gives me cause to deliver this advice. Please don’t let a little rudeness get in the way of a city full of beauty.
So I was surfing around David Lebowitz' wonderful food blog, http://www.davidlebovitz.com, when I came across an item he wrote titled Métro Hands...and Cheeks. As is his wont, the article of the day veered from his germaphobic topic regarding the dreaded "Métro hands" to losing one of his favorite gloves to the wonderful Parisian (nay, perhaps French or even European!) habit of placing lost items where they might be found.
This would NEVER happen in the US, at least I've never seen it happen, not even in the midwest (where I now live) where good courtesy is taken for granted. Nor does it happen in the south (where I grew up) where excellent manners are considered de rigueur.
Monsieur Lebowitz, an American now residing in Paris (lucky dog!), had lost one of his favorite gloves. Knowing the above-named French habit, he went out in search of the lost item only to discover it in his very own elevator cleverly tucked away in the hand rail (read the blog, it's really funny)!
Anywho, I'd read the blog a week prior to my latest sojourn to the City of Light. While traipsing around in Montmartre this past November, *I* came across a hapless glove myself (somewhere along rue Lepic between Place Jean-Pierre Baptiste and rue d'Orchampt)! Naturally, I had to take a photo just for the edification of you good VT folk.
In any case, in the war of French politesse v. American manners, I think the French have one up on us. I've vowed to continue this nice practice here at home but I'm not sure if it'll ever become popular. Of course, I'll never know the outcome of these Samaritan acts but it certainly won't hurt to try!!
Photo: November 2007
There's a common stereotype about Parisian waiters or shop staff that they are rude or snobby. We never found that to be true at all. Not all of them are chatting and willing to pass the time of day with you but they also have busy jobs to do. We didn't encounter any impolite people when dealing with staff in restaurants, cafes or shops. It was like anywhere, really. Some people will smile and be really friendly, some will be polite and professional, but never did i feel snubbed or insulted. I think part of the reason, though, is that wherever i went, i would smile and say "bonjour/bonsoir" in greeting when i entered a shop or cafe and always said Merci beaucoup. Sometimes the person would switch to English and sometimes they wouldn't but I managed to catch the gist of the conversation and did my best with my limited French vocabulary. I think that makes a big difference, making the effort, even if half of your sentence is English and half is French. In the city centre, most people seemed to have a little English. We even had several people come up to us to help, once when we were looking over a map and once in a metro station and couldn't make out the announcements.