Please sign in to post.
Posted by
5261 posts

Nice article summarizing much of what makes many of us feel awkward in France (not just Paris). The only times I've felt hostility from French people have been when I failed to start with "Bonjour, Monsieur." Both times with Metro ticket sellers. Hopefully I'll do better if I ever get back there. And Sciolino's latest book about the Seine is a delight.

Posted by
4996 posts

Thanks for the link, Steven. And Dick is right about her book, "The Seine: The River that made Paris." I'm planning to reread it before our next trip to France.

Posted by
3349 posts

Steven, Merci for sharing the examples of Elaine’s take on the customs of France. I especially appreciated this: “But one lesson is sure to endure: To navigate Paris as an American is to be forced to slow down and embrace the process, ideally with a sense of humor.” This is true when traveling to other places in the world.

I can echo the sentiments up thread. I too enjoyed “The Seine: The River That Made Paris.”

Posted by
4996 posts

I must add that I've never felt hostility from French people. In fact, on our most recent visit (2019, two RS tours plus plenty of time on our own before, after, and in between,) I was pleased at how friendly everyone (well, except for one hotel employee) was, and how accepting they were of my attempts at speaking French (except for the aforesaid hotel employee.) It was a lovely visit; we can't wait to return.

Posted by
3458 posts

" I must add that I've never felt hostility from French people. " I share your impression , Jane . I recall on our first visit to Paris some years ago , we were staying in a hotel in Montparnasse ,and having breakfast each morning in a bakery a few doors away . Upon leaving one morning , I turned to the lady behind the counter to wish her a good day . Armed with my pidgin high school French , I smiled and said " Bonjour , Madame " . With a broad smile she looked at me , waving her finger " Non non , Monsieur ! C'est un Bon Journee ! . I have never forgotten her , and her kindness and warmth .

Posted by
1143 posts

I am one of her many fans. I've read "The Only Street in Paris" and I'm mostly through 'The Seine."
She is a wonderful writer who makes herself a character in her books without making them all about her. She is clearly in Paris not to find herself but to find and share the city and its inhabitants themselves with the rest of us.
Rick has a couple of podcasts with her which are also nice to listen to.
Two thumbs up!

Posted by
2 posts

Dear Rick and readers of Rick -- Thanks for sharing your views with me. France is a complicated place (and Paris makes it more so). Many of my NYT readers have pointed out correctly that Paris is NOT France just like NYC is NOT America. I try to write from the heart and share my own experiences and knowledge gleaned from my reporting. Mine is just one view among many. The only thing I am sure of is that no matter where you are in the world, if you try to take the time and have a real conversation with the other, you may just open doors! Thanks again. Warm wishes, Elaine Sciolino
P.S. Rick Steves is a master when it comes to understanding other cultures!

Posted by
3349 posts

Dear Ms Sciolino,
Thank you so much for responding to this thread. You certainly reiterated my travel sentiments. Early on I learned from Rick Steves that embracing the culture will “open doors” around the world. I couldn't agree more- “Rick Steves is a master when it comes to understanding other cultures.”

Posted by
4996 posts

I just requested "The Only Street in Paris" from the library.

Ms Sciolino, how kind of you to check in on this thread. We're all fans!

Posted by
5261 posts

French people are rightly proud of their language, and they don't hesitate to correct us when we get something wrong. That's how I know that a beer is "une biere," not "un biere," and that a regular taxi (as opposed to a town-car type) is a "taxi normale," not "taxi ordinaire." It's hard to strike up a conversation with a French person, but one way to get some interchange is to ask the French word for something. In a hailstorm in the Marais, I asked the woman sharing a doorway with me what was the French word for this, and she told me "la grele," which I've never forgotten though never again experienced there. Of course I started with "Excusez-moi, Madame."

I know they think we're goofy for smiling all the time, but I can't help it, Paris is such a wonderful place. Thank you, Ms. Sciolino. We look forward to your many future posts advising how to get from CDG to Normandy without driving, whether a day trip from London via Eurostar is worthwhile, and other burning topics we often address, over and over, here. ;-) PS: There's more about your new book under "Recommended Books and Movies" on this forum.

Posted by
357 posts

Ms. Sciolino is not only a delightful writer, but also a wonderful conversationalist. She has done with Rick Steves one or more radio interviews, which can be accessed online.

Posted by
4996 posts

I started "The Only Street in Paris" last night, and couidn't put it down. I think I like it even more than the Seine book. But I can't help but wonder: will Rue des Martyrs now become the tourist magnet that Rue Cler and Cinque Terre have become?

Posted by
8397 posts

We've been staying in that neighborhood for the last 10 years, the area below the Boulevards. It hasn't become a tourist magnet but it has become more of a hangout for younger Parisians and young families. I can only describe pre-covid when we last stayed there in November 2019. A few neighborhood shops have been replaced by hip hangouts. Lots of shops sell food plates for groups to share and graze in the shop, which fits some budgets better. There's a lot of walk-away and take-home food from different countries and regions of France. A little low on greengrocers, though. Not a tourist magnet but each visit we noticed fewer neighborhood shops and more specialty, or young entrepreneur shops as the area becomes more gentrified.

Posted by
6481 posts

I just finished The Seine book and am waiting for the Only Street in Paris from the library. I absolutely loved The Seine: The River That Made Paris, one of the best books about France that I have read. Made me want to go over there and trace her route from the source.

Posted by
3349 posts

Thanks to all who have recommended “The Only Street in Paris.” I now plan to add this book to my library!

Posted by
4996 posts

Update: the current (November) edition of Smithsonian magazine has a very interesting article by Sciolino on Rosa Bonheur and the current restoration of her chateau near Fontainebleau. It's well worth reading, with great photographs.

Posted by
2311 posts

I have a question for those of you more well travelled in France than I am. When you speak of the French culture and the big differences between them and North Americans are you mainly comparing Paris to North America or all of France? I didn't find anyone rude during my trip last year, but I did find the Parisians to be definitely more formal and reserved as compared to other regions.

I should give a plug to RS tours while I'm thinking of it. I enjoyed everything about my RS Loire to the South of France tour last year, but what is most memorable is how our guide Virginie More took the time everyday to explain to us about the French personality and mannerisms as compared to Americans. It was a real Aha moment when I thought of my first couple of days in Paris prior to the start of the tour. On incident in particular comes to mind. I was buying a pass for the river bus (?) companies and it was €36, so I gave the guy €40, but he said no change was available even though I could see clearly that he had plenty of cash. I figured he was just trying to rip me off and so I used credit card instead. I asked Virginie about that and she said quirks like that can be common in Paris but I likely wouldn't come across it anywhere else on the tour. She was right.

Posted by
3349 posts

Thanks Jane for mentioning the Smithsonian article. It was a fascinating read. Once again another Elaine Sciolino hit! Agree- well written & great photos.

Posted by
8397 posts

Well Allen, I certainly can't generalize. But a lot of people working these tourist jobs on the boats and elsewhere in Paris are Eastern European immigrants. Unless you speak French well enough to hear the accents, you wouldn't know. For example, Angelina's on rue de Rivoli had many Russians providing poor, snotty service last time I was there. Perhaps you got a holdover from Soviet service when you tried buying your ticket. Last time I took a Bateau Mouche, everyone working was Russian, including the girl with the microphone.