Stereotypes, Paris

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  • Mikebond's Profile Photo

    Kissing on the cheeks

    by Mikebond Updated Oct 29, 2007

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    One of the customs that most shocks foreign tourists from outside Europe when they visit Paris (which is in most cases their first journey to France) is the social act of kissing people on the cheeks upon meeting and often upon departing, too. This gesture is called in French se faire la bise (litterally "to do the peck") and, unlike what people may think, it is not typically Parisian, since it originated in Bretagne before spreading across France and most European country.
    Since the number of kisses on the cheeks varies from one region to the other, but also from a village to the neighbouring one, you should always know how many kisses are supposed to be exchanged. From what I have seen and read, Parisians give either two or four kisses, but I'm not sure of when they give two and when four. I guess that two kisses are for people one meets every day and four are for people one meets from time to time. I also suppose that when one meets a group of several people and has to do the bise to all of them (yes, that is socially compulsory!), one gives two kisses because four would take too long.
    However, beware that in the rest of Ile-de-France the number of kisses changes, but I don't know what the praxis is, since I have never seen it. Follow the links above to learn more about the bise.

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  • moirholj's Profile Photo

    People in glass houses...

    by moirholj Updated Aug 29, 2007

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    Yes, I had a bad experience (read my sports tips) with people some people in Paris. It was pretty crappy, but you know what, that was a few people out of a whole country and I'm not going to condemn the city of Paris because of the actions of two.

    People are the same no matter where you go. Some are nice and some are not. Please get over the stereotype that Parisians are rude or snotty. And don't encourage the stereotype by approaching a local with a chip on your shoulder.

    Look, before you go to any country where the main language is something other than English you should take it upon yourself to learn 4 or 5 simple phrases. It's not to appease the locals, but to help you along on your trip. Learn to say Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You, and for christ's sake, learn how to ask for help. This is for your benefit, but it also makes local people happy to see that you are trying to speak the local language. This will make for helpful and pleasant interactions.

    Finally, the only reason I was able to go to Paris at all was because of the generosity of a Parisian. I was introduced to a girl from Paris through a friend and she invited me to come and stay in Paris with her in her apartment. That's some pretty incredible hospitality from someone who only spent a few days with myself and our mutual friend in the states. I stayed with her and she took time off of work and school to show me around her city. It was a huge demonstration of hospitality on her part and that's something I can probably never repay her for.

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  • 22scootergal's Profile Photo

    be respectful & polite

    by 22scootergal Updated Jun 29, 2007

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    Before my trip I had read on this forum to be polite and speak as
    much French as you can and the locals will respond in kind.
    This was excellent advice. A simple "Excuse Moi" "merci" etc. goes
    a long way. I did not find the French to be rude whatsoever and
    believe me, I had to ask for help and directions many times. If I
    asked politely they were happy to respond even if they did not
    speak much English.

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  • VDElvis's Profile Photo

    The rude Parisian: myth or fact

    by VDElvis Written Apr 27, 2007

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    My girlfriend and I spent four days in Paris. We came across only one rude person in that entire time. Growing up in Canada, we both spoke some French, which we learned in school, and made an effort to speak in French at all times. Every person that we talked to (with the exception of one) was fine and patient with us, and usually could tell that French wasn't our first language, so they just spoke to us in English.

    We noticed that at restaurants, service was generally pretty slow, and the servers weren't too attentive, but we took that to be local custom as opposed to being rude.

    I'd have to say that the stereotype of the rude Parisian is a myth, as long as you yourself are being polite, respectful, and at least make an effort to speak in their language.

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  • longsanborn's Profile Photo

    Mostly Friendly French

    by longsanborn Updated Feb 11, 2007

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    I have heard about the french being unfriendly people and refused to respond to questions asked in English. It is not true that they are unfriendly people. And yes, they may not like it if you immediately asked them to their face "Hello, do you speak English?"

    Come on, please people! You visit someone's country of different culture and language, and you expect them to speak your language? As tourists and visitors to France, we should at least make the effort to learn some of their language, at least the basic words like "Bonjour, Merci, Pardon," etc. There are many guidebooks that have basic french words. If we make the effort to be friendly to the French, then they will be friendly to us too.

    "Do onto others as you want others to do onto you" - isn't this the golden rule?

    For the times I've spent in Paris and other parts of France, I find the French people to be friendly and outgoing. They will help and sometimes go beyond the norm to help a lost visitor. Off course, there are the exceptions and I did come across a few rude french - but this happens all over the world. In every country, you meet nice people and the NOT so nice people. That's life.

    So, I love Paris - the city, the food, the wine and the nice french people.

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  • Extremely nice!!!

    by Manyana Updated Dec 2, 2006

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    Philipp et moi, Chatelet

    Before I flew to Paris, my brain was full of all these BSs that the french were rude and unfriendly people, who *hate* to speak in english. It was very unlikely!!! The minute we stepped on the Parisian soil, these two gentlement offered to show us our way and carry our bags, 'in english',lol

    When one of them asked me where I was from, i said i travelled from london. he was slightly struck but i comforted him that i was saudi arabian. then he made me laugh loudly when he said, 'cause the english don't like anyone', loool.

    Almost everyone we met was friendly and trying their efforts to be helpful even when conversing in french. surprisingly i've found quite a few who spoke english very well!

    believe me the french are quite nice and easygoing, very warmhearted...it's ok to speak english but just don't be too english,lol

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  • Cultural differences

    by BELLEVILLE Written Nov 24, 2006

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    As a French, i'am always surprised about this Anglosaxon stereotype: the rude French.
    It's a total misunderstanding. The French and the Anglosaxon cultures are totally different.
    Parisians and French are not Martians. They are humans, with their qualities and defects like all other people on this planet. And i can't understand how the Anglosaxons can venture to judge other peoples with their standards. This perception of the French to be rude, unfriendly, arrogant, chauvinistic is total ***. Have you never try to travel in Poland,Russia or China?
    The cultural shock can be strong,too. You have bad and good people everywhere. But the problem with many US or British visitors who have never traveled in France is that they have their brains full of grotesque and outdated clichés about the French, coming from old Hollywood films:bérets, frog legs,existentialism, pompous intellectuals and other kinds of craps. All these old WW2 images are also boring and exasperating. It means nothing for most of the current French because 80% of them were no born at this time. And, if some French can be perceived as snooty or rude, i would rather say that they can be sad or stressed, because they work hard, they are treated sometimes like *** by their boss or their government, they pay a lot of taxes and many other things. France is the most visited country in the world with 75 millions tourists each year. But it doesn't means that it's a theme park. When i visited USA a few years ago, i encountered many kinds of people, some friendly, but a lot very aggressive and totally misinformed about the world affairs outside the US.
    I think that the biggest calamity is IGNORANCE.

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  • whitelilysummerain's Profile Photo

    Rude and unhelpful :(

    by whitelilysummerain Updated Aug 15, 2006

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    In Paris I found that people serving you acted like you were putting them out. You often get a snappy answer before you even finished the sentance.
    I was charged more than I should of been for drinks in Jardin des Tuileries, which I figured would be more effort than it was worth to argue about.
    At first I found the way I was looked at very threatening, like I would be targeted because I was a tourist but I got used to it eventually.
    One of my party got lost on our first night, a call from England had took all their credit ( the same then happened to me) and it took several hours to find someone who would let him use a phone to ring me for the Hotel address. One person asked for his mobile phone in exchange, another took money off him for a phone card and then gave him one with no credit on it after that night he was convinced that the French really dislike the English.
    A police man bruised his arm while he quite clearly told him in English to **** OFF!
    We only just got into our boarding gate by 5 minutes due to Britsih Airways staff at CDG airport sending us the wrong way one person just shrugged without even trying, and we had arrived more than two hours before our flight.
    And they drive like maniacs crossing a road is like an extreme sport, even with traffic lights, I certainly think I would of enjoyed my trip to Paris more had we encountered friendlier people.
    At first I put the nonchalance of effort down to Paris not needing the tourism to survive, but very few were actually pleasant even to each other so it must just be the way they are. I wouldn't of believed how agro they are without provocation without actually seeing it for myself, as I try to see the positive in everyone but I was really shocked more than once as there was just no need for it.
    I'm sad I have come away from Paris with such a low opinion of its people.

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  • Different culture

    by elementerre Written Jul 25, 2006

    parisians rude? the answer would be, yes! but moslty for people who come from a country where the capitalism is embedded in the people behavior.
    i'am parisian and i've been living in the US during 2 years. In the US when you get in a restaurant you expect greetings. it's not the case in france. If in a grocery store someone asked a french personn if everything is ok systematicaly, people will found that rude and maybe enslavingly for the employees. I know that because I was shopping at win dixie cause they were not asking me anything during my shopping. opositely i was trying to not go to publix because they were asking me at leat 3 time if "everything was ok".
    In the restaurants its different everybody like to have its order take care o but in france we like to make and order and then we don't like to see the waiter coming back at the table to much, its also rude for us if the waiter keep asking if everything is ok. however the waiter don't care so much cause they don't work on tips even thought most of people leave a tip (not 20% but in general 2 or 3 euro per table). so if you folowed me, customer service is not as good in france as it is in the US although the Phone costumer service is better in france than it is in the US.anyway all these little differences makes americans feel that french people are rude. I am not saying that is the only reason, there is also the fact that paris is a huge city with lot of stress for everyone.so if you experience any rudeness, don't take it personnaly. in fact being an american in paris is not enough to be hated, parisians deal with millions foreign people all year long from the korean forest to the bolivian pampa,so they don't really care if you're from south paris or manchester. they just don't give a s...... so when i heard things like, "say hello" and asked "how are you today". ok for ,"hello" , but asking "how are you today" to a personn that you don't know personnaly, its very rude.I know its not the answer you'd like to heard, its almost ugly but it's just how it is

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  • endzoearth's Profile Photo

    Friendliness Through the Language

    by endzoearth Updated Jun 26, 2006

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    The stereotype that many Americans have of the French is that they are "rude" or that they "hate Americans." The thing is, WE are the rude ones! This so-called "rudeness" of the French comes only in reaction to the rudeness of Americans who invade their country and expect everyone to wait on us hand and foot, all the while speaking to us in English, even though we are in THEIR country! Again, as mentioned in one of my other tips, you will be amazed if you seek to be a HUMBLE tourist and at least ATTEMPT to speak French, even broken French. They will adopt a completely different attitude toward you (a much more pleasant one). Give it a try, and see the difference!

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  • BeatChick's Profile Photo

    Kind French People

    by BeatChick Updated Mar 18, 2006

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    Nice man who told me Bienvenue!
    3 more images

    This tip is in an effort to dispel the myth of the "rude French people". Sure, there's bound to be a rude Parisian or two out there - every culture has them, but for the most part I found the French to be extremely kind, helpful, curious about our culture, & very polite.

    One of the kindest things that ever happened to me was when I got lost on the RER. I took the WRONG direction! About the time we pulled into the Stade de France stop was when I noticed. I got out looking about me in a very confused fashion. Out on the platform was a lovely French gentleman who could barely speak English yet he helped me get to the other side. I was having trouble conveying to him what went wrong so eventually I just pointed to the other side. He took my hand, walked me down the stairs took me to the other side & pointed me the way. Very kind gentleman & since then I've had a difficult time understanding this stupid stereotype of the rude French people. It's been my experience that they are very kind & willing to help and are especially helpful when I've made the attempt to communicate in their language!

    During my trip in 2003, I was doing my best to use my (limited) French. I went to Nectarine, used French to order cafe, s'il vous plait, use the right gestures to get the check (l'addition, s'il vous plait). As I went to pay the bill, a young man told me I was welcome to come back any time in French, which tickled me.

    Different folks moved out of the way when I stopped for a photo, others posed most graciously when asked, others complimented me on my efforts to speak French. Another lady saw me taking a photo of a Smart car in the Marais. She discerned I must be American to take a photo of such a silly subject. She inquired "American?" using the English pronunciation. I replied, "Oui, je suis Americain - Etats Unis" using very limited French. She then said "Bravo, l'Americain" at my feeble efforts.

    Photos: Feb 06

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  • Albernfrau's Profile Photo

    Didn't ever experience rudeness

    by Albernfrau Written Jan 21, 2006

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    I am positive that those who experience rudeness in Paris have somehow been disrespectful themselves either by not at least trying to speak French first or by not appreciating the way of the Parisians. You must remember you are not in N.A. or your home country. Parisians are proud and do things the Parisian way and there is nothing wrong with this. Take it in; absorb it. Try and act in the way that is acceptable there as we are GUESTS in their home.

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  • Vinoba's Profile Photo

    Not overly friendly people in Paris

    by Vinoba Updated Jan 6, 2006

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    Of all the countries I have visited, the people with the least warm attitude towards others are the Parisians. I have lived in two main countries (Nigeria and UK) and come from Srilanka. I must say when it comes to smiling, the French people I came into contact with were less than generous especially in comparison to the Italians, Spaniards and Austrians! However all that changed around mid-night on New Years' day! Suddenly everyone loved everyone. It was the most amazing transformation!

    Also the only French words I had to use were Bonjour and Merci. I was more than happy to try other phrases but most of the Parisians switched to English without any hesitations and our waitors always went out of their way to translate the French menus when we asked for it again without any hesitations. I did not feel the need to speak French for their benefit at all.

    So I think that the lack of smiling might have been because it was freezing cold over there in mid-Winter. I should go back in a Summer and see how the people compare to other Europeans. Perhaps the sterotype must-speak-French attitude is being slowly wiped out and this can only be a good thing in terms of welcoming other cultures into a country.

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  • juniperjune's Profile Photo

    Paris loves Canadians

    by juniperjune Written Jan 4, 2006

    This last time I went to Paris, I was afraid that they would look down on my French. I received such a warm reception from the Pariseans, that I want to go back! Everyone loved my accent when I spoke French. They all knew I was from Canada, and they wanted to know where I was from. I am from Montreal, but I am an Anglophone. I truley felt welcomed. It is amazing how much Canadians are loved throughout Europe. Wear a Canadian flag, pin, logo...You will be amazed at how you are treated! I AM CANADIAN! It's more than just a beer slogan!

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  • Nice people!!! Understaffed restaurants

    by Moscaperruna Updated Sep 22, 2005

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    People in Paris are really, really nice. They have different norms of education and I supose they find annoying and rude some of our own manners. I found them, however, very tolerant to my rudeness. Even after I had forgotten saying 'hello' as entering a store and going straight for the merchandise (something I knew was wrong from other VT tips and was trying to correct) they would not match my lack of politeness.

    I did find, though, that many restaurants and cafes are very understaffed and waiters were clearly stressed and take their time to take your order. I saw one waiter prepare a table in such a hurry that the knife and fork felt to the floor. He had basically just thrown them at the costumers who, understandably, left the place. But in many other places they were very friendly...even flirty.

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