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Advise on social situation

I'm currently in an interesting situation would like to perspectives on this issue. I approached a cafe in Paris. The cafe is busy, however, there was one empty table. Two women occupying two tables and three chairs. One chair for each of them the third chair holding their purses, etc, and the empty table holding their used espresso cups. I asked if someone was sitting at the empty table. They were clearly miffed at my question, for now they had to hold their own stuff. My question is did I do something wrong? Did I break some unknown social rule. I'm perplexed. But I got the table and currently enjoying the salad of the moment. I appreciate any insights given.

Paris is marvelous need I say more. Last day of my two week vacation. Can't wait to return.


Posted by
5823 posts

You did nothing wrong Debbie. Some people are just rude and selfish!
Don't even get me started on people who hog seats on public transport...........

Posted by
6875 posts

You just happpened on a couple of princesses. You did them a favor if they were stupid enough to place their handbags on a third chair. However, it is unusual to get that sort of miffed attitude from French people who are usually very sharing of space. Were these tourists?

Posted by
8889 posts

Yes Emma, and they put their bags on the seat next to them, and don't move them when the train fills up.
Or leave them in the aisle because they can't be bothered to use their muscles to put them in the overhead rack; or becuase they read on some forum that they must keep their bags in sight at all times so don't want to put them in the space provided.

Debbie, don't worry, you just got unlucky.

Posted by
2525 posts

Surely the same "ladies" were the ones that gave me a dirty look when last in Venice as three of us dare consider sitting in the stern of the vaporetto requiring them to remove their legs from an oh so comfortable reclining position. I suppose we could have left their private salon and found seats elsewhere, but especially not given the initial reception.

Posted by
2068 posts

These had to be tourists. See the same boorish behavior all over here. I have seen buses with their 44 seats occupied by 22 people, with no place for the 23rd person to sit. And worse, I have seen this done so as to chose the type of person who is allowed to split the seat. It's a good thing our airplanes have assigned seating.

Posted by
5714 posts

A similar Parisian situation. Parks like Luxembourg Gardens and Tuilleries have oodles of movable chairs. It is common for people to use chairs for their feet or as picnic tables. It is however perfectly acceptable to go up to someone doing this if there are no other chairs available and gesture politely that you would like the chair. I have had this done when I was using a second chair and have done it when I needed a chair. I have never seen anyone get rude about it when asked.

In a cafe, people borrow chairs from other tables all the time and generally people are gracious about it. Karma will get the women in your story as the best way to lose a purse is to put it on the extra chair. Effective pickpockets/thieves can have such a purse and be gone without being noticed.

Posted by
101 posts

Thanks everyone. I value your perspectives, I am doing my absolute best to be kind, gracious and polite during my lovely stay. They were indeed Parisian princesses, but no matter. They actually moved to another location and repeated the behavior. My luck is their vacancy provided a delightful opportunity for two nice Parisians to sit next to me and we engaged in a nice chat. Voila.

Happy traveling to all. Headed back home in the morning. Already I long for Paris.

Posted by
5537 posts

Debbie -- good for you for not letting their boorishness keep you from the table, and even better, the chatting with the nice folks that arrived after they moved!!!

i get so annoyed on the metro etc -- it's like: oh yes I understand that it's more important for your bag to have a seat than me, a human being. One day last week, a lady had literally laid her UMBRELLA (small and folded up) on the seat next to her. I wanted to say, "Sorry to have taken your umbrella's seat." SHEESH!!

Posted by
1976 posts

How great that you didn't let their attitudes bother you! One of those women must have been the one on a train I took in Germany. She was in my assigned seat when I boarded the train, but refused to move; she made her boyfriend give up his seat for me. She also mocked my attempt to be polite and use German.

Posted by
5714 posts

I never let someone take my seat unless there is an equivalent seat I can easily take and then if they are polite I accommodate. I have had people try to take either my aisle or window seat on planes -- nu uh. I will move to accommodate a late boarding family so they are not separated from a child if the seat is equivalent or it is a short flight -- but entitled people who think they can squat on the best seats or worse yet argue that their child should have it because it is his first flight or grandpa should have it,because it is his first flight -- not even.

Posted by
11743 posts

Did you say hello before you asked them about the table?