A couple of years ago, I walked into my favorite New York deli and quietly waited for my turn at the counter. Another New Yorker came in after me and very deftly moved in front of me and got to the helper-person before me with a loud voice and a friendly but determined air. It took me a minute to wonder how she managed to slip up to the counter ahead of me… and then I got it: from years of visiting Paris, my subconscious had been converted and my behavior altered… by quietly and unobtrusively waiting my turn, I was behaving like a Parisian – and she, I thought, was rude.
That was a genuine ‘ta-da’ moment for me… So you can take the girl out of the country and the country out of me apparently… at least for a few moments at a New York deli counter. Bottom line: We think Parisians are rude; Parisians think we’re rude. I think we both have our moments.
The necessary ‘bonjour’ when you enter an establishment and ‘au revoir’ when you leave are two of the more simpler nuances of Parisian etiquette. There are a ton more, with bigger implications than just a scoff. Under their socialist system most ‘things’ are the same (sales happen twice a year and every shop has them, equal pay for equal service, tips are included in the meal and not at the diner’s discretion, etc…). Hey, I get it: Unless you know an ex-pat, who’s lived there long enough to clue you in, our cultural behaviors can be misinterpreted as “rude.”
Paris, without any insight into their collective psyche, is gorgeous all on its own, day or night. Driving through the center, past the Louvre and up the Champs-Élysées, over to the Eiffel Tower and across the Seine, past Notre Dame on your way to the Left Bank. It’s all so iconic… so magical.
In our company, it’s become our mission to dig deeper than just the iconic; to leave visitors with a more intimate connection to Paris… to give them a personal connection to the Parisians with an American perspective. It’s the ‘why’ in “Why go to the Louvre when you can go to the Met?”. The Met is an amazing museum but it’s in New York – and New York isn’t Paris. The experience is so much richer when you get a peek into their window… it’s what makes it different… unique.
I’d like to think I’ve adopted some of their more charming characteristics over my years of multiple visits and launching a tourist business in Paris (AmericanConcierge.com). I love going there, I love being there… I love eating there, sightseeing there and I certainly love shopping there. And I mostly always add a sensually knotted colorful silk neck scarf to my daily ensemble.
By the way, I no longer believe that Parisians are rude. They’re just French!