Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An American in Paris

There's been a stereotype that French people are snooty and rude, and that they are unfriendly towards Americans; I was a little bit worried about this before I left because I don't speak French. The most useful piece of information I read before visiting Paris was that in reality, French people value politeness so greatly that it is a huge insult to accuse someone of not being well brought-up. French people are absolutely super polite. At every restaurant and shop I entered, each staff member I made eye contact with greeted me with a bonjour ("good morning"/"good afternoon") or bonsoir ("good evening"/"good night") and merci, au revoir ("thank you, goodbye") when I left. People who even just slightly brushed past one another on the Metro would say pardon to each other.

I think that keeping these customs in mind will definitely make your visit to Paris a very pleasant one. Saying bonjour/bonsoir with a big smile whenever you make eye contact with someone is visibly appreciated there. To order something, say je voudrais ("I would like") and follow up the item with s’il vous plaĆ®t ("please"). For less basic communications, I asked parlez-vous anglais? ("Do you speak English?") and most people replied that they knew a little, and didn't mind using it since I'd already tried speaking in French. Follow up everything with a smile and merci.

Now that I am back, it's actually kind of weird to have to re-adjust to how people don't smile at one another nearly as much here. That's definitely what I will miss the most about Paris.

| Photo Credit: N. Morello, in collaboration with me. |

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