Heard this before?
This article may hold some truth: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/7353113/Parisians-really-are-rude-French-poll-finds.html
Somehow Parisians are often associated with snobbishness and rudeness.
Somehow even non-Parisian French distance themselves from Parisians.
Somehow Parisians prefer to belong to the elite and the bourgeois.
A couple of months ago, I got reacquainted with a Parisian friend whom I brought around Singapore and who is now reciprocating the favour while I visit Paris. What was more interesting was how I was telling another French friend about her a few months ago and the following is a short excerpt of our conversation that night.
Me: “Hey, I just met another French friend and I’m showing her around Singapore.”
French lady friend:“Wow…that’s nice. Where is she from?”
French lady friend: “Oh. Paris? I must warn you, Parisians are different from other French. Sometimes they can be quite stuck up.”
Me: “What? But she never gave me that impression.”
French lady friend: “Is she working there?”
Me: “Not yet. She’s still studying for her Masters at ESSEC.”
French lady friend: “ESSEC?!?! Oh my God. Only rich French people can get in there. ESSEC students are notorious for being snobbish. They think they are the best.”
Me: “Really? Wow. Either she’s not what you think or I’m extremely unobservant.”
French lady friend: “Where does she stay in Paris?”
French lady friend: “Montmartre? That’s where the rich Parisiens are staying. Arrgghh. Very elitist.”
Well….obviously I was in complete shock and the conversation about Paris didn’t go very far. Frankly, no thanks to my ignorance of France and Paris, I was wary of this new friend at that time. Really is it all true? Parisians are snobbish little pricks?
So far, my fears have been confounded. This Parisian friend (let’s call her CF) is neither rude nor prideful. As a matter of fact, I feel blessed knowing her. And the people whom I was introduced to by CF were friendly and sociable.
But we need to put things into perspective. If you live in the centre of a culture and history that dates back almost 2000 years and that is so rich and diverse, you should have every right to be proud.
If you can truly appreciate the beauty and melody of the French language, you will go all out to defend it from foreign contamination.
In my experience, though relatively limited, Parisians are, by and large, nice and helpful. However, please do note that learning a little French before travelling to Paris and trying to speak it there, can help you both practically and socially. I believe that their graciousness is directly proportionate to your effort in using French to communicate. Seriously.
For example, I visit a nearby bakery to receive my literal daily bread. I can actually count in French. Not 1 to 10. As in really count any number in French. So on the first encounter with the baker, I spoke a bit of French and he told me the total price of my purchase in French. At that time, I could understand him, gave him the exact amount but he knew that I wasn’t fluent. But the second time I visited him, I got lazy trying to understand the purchase amount that he said in French. I tried to sneak a peek at his calculator.
Mr. Baker covered the calculator’s screen, took it outta my sight and with a grin on his face, uttered a little slower this time,”cinq cinquante“. ($5.50) And after repeating the amount in French in my head, I smiled and gave him the money.
In another instance, a waitress, knowing my exact breakfast order since I keep asking for the same items, would deliberately keep silent so that I can order the items in French. So much for impatient Parisians. All she wants is for me to have an opportunity to practise my French. Damn she’s nice.
So surviving Paris and receiving their full hospitality is simple – Speak French.
Some people might think that knowing a little French and attempting to massacre the language would be insulting to Parisians. Well…clearly it is quite the contrary. Making an effort to speak their native language is merely a form of flattery. Shoot. Even the hotel receptionist, Maguy, greets me by my first name and offered to improve my French by introducing new words to me. And for that, I got free croissants and chocolate buns!
Building immediate rapport is all about creating sameness and conformity. Wouldn’t you be flattered if I sought to understand your culture and at least try to learn it? With a couple of French words, you can unlock a room-load of Parisian warmth. And that’s how you can enjoy Paris. Voila!