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Paris and Parisains

I am traveling to Paris for the first time. I have often heard how rude and unfriendly Parisians are. What experiences have others had? Over the years I have put off going to Paris for that very reason. I have read Rick Steve's book on Paris and he says they are just more reserved than we Americans are.

Posted by
12400 posts

When I first went to France in 1973, I didn't know French at all, except for a couple of phrases, didn't even know enough to order a glass of milk; now I can say I am proficient in the language. Of course, it helps to endear yourself to the locals if you make an effort to say the most elementary phrases, and, in the case with les français, it certainly helps. There must have been instances where I encountered rude behaviour in Paris through out the trips I can't recall, but the main question you have to decide for yourself is whether coming across such rudeness is going to change adversely your desire to go back to Paris or France. Their rudeness, if I perceived it as such, is not going to stop me from going back. From my observations on my trips, especially in Germany, Americans as a whole stand out for a variety of reasons. Nothing wrong with that, especially if being spotted out as American doesn't bother you. Definitely, I would say one reason is their loudness, if for nothing else, brings attention upon themselves. I've observed this myself. But they are no longer the only ones as tourists who are loud. Being loud is one thing, being obnoxious is quite another. Tom, don't put off going to Paris, and don't let rude and unfriendly Parisians, if they are indeed, deter you from being there. I've been going back ever since 1973, rudeness or no rudeness.

Posted by
12040 posts

You'll see every possible variation. People may stop you on the street to ask if they can help you (if they see you reading a map), or they may keep on walking. Most Parisians you'll encounter, quite frankly, won't even notice you. In my opinion, Parisian's reputation for rudeness probably came about because they seem to be less tolerant than many other Europeans of the loud speaking voice that many visitors from North America use.

Posted by
8960 posts

I've visited Paris several times, I speak no french, and have yet to encounter any rude Parisians. Anywhere you travel, anywhere in the world you'll meet a cross-ion of people: those who are outgoing/curious, those who are in a rush and don't want to be bothered, others who are jerks, and everything else in between. In my experience Paris is no different than anywhere else.

Posted by
7 posts

thanks Hussen. I am very consious about the reputation we Americans have when we are abroad. I have been to many places in Europe and I chringe when I hear a group of Americans talking. I studied French in high school and College (more than 30 years ago) and have started studying it again. I am afraid though, because I hear that the French are rude when you try to speak their language. At this stage in my life there is no way I am going to be able to speak it properly. I have been paying special attention to the French "R". I can do the nasal stuff ok but the "R" is a killer. Several years ago I was on a Balitic cruise and we spent a day in Berlin. I loved it, it is such a special city. Someday I want to go back and spend more time there. Thanks again!!

Posted by
4671 posts

The impression I get from visiting France is that the single most important etiquette point is that if you enter a small shop you must greet the staff with a "bon jour" or "bon soir" when you go in. I think a lot of English-speaking people fail to do that and don't realise that it creates a bad first impression.

Posted by
459 posts

I agree with what others have posted, and would add that along with greeting people when you enter a small store, cafe, and so forth, it's customary to also say goodby or thank you upon leaving. I've wondered if Parisian business owners are also a bit insulted by the extremely casual attire of some tourists.

Posted by
331 posts

It is not only foreign visitors to Paris who can find the Parisiens rude, other French nationals have said as much to me. They have said that in their opinion the Parisiens consider themselves a cut above the rest of the country, with their world famous high fashion, cuisine and culture and that they act as though the rest of the country is inhabited by peasants. Not my opinion
but told to me by more than one non Parisien Frenchman. However I too have encountered some extremely rude and unhelpful Parisiens and I would say that it is more prevalent in Paris than in other capital cities in my opinion. Two of the worst examples happened when visiting with my wheelchairbound 18 stone father. The first happened when helping him to exit a taxi at the Gare du Nord, the taxi driver had stopped in a private parking space and the owner of the space was not prepared to wait whilst I helped my father and then got the cases out (taxi driver didn't help either and it was after all his decision to park in a private space ). The owner of the space (a very elegant looking lady) shouted abuse at us to hurry up which when she realised that we were British then turned racial and personal. The other example although not abusive occurred in artgalleries and museums which were not always wheelchair friendly and staff offered no assistance, even when directly asked if they could help. On one occasion we could not access the restaurant with the weelchair and as my father is also diabetic and needs to eat regularly, I was not allowed to leave him outside the restaurant whilst I brought him a sandwich to eat in the corridor. Food had to consumed in the restaurant and it was not the fact that they were unable to relax the rules but the manner in which they spoke to us.I know you could say this could happen anywhere, but the fact is that it did not. I hear many folk call Germans arrogant, but in my opinion it is the Parisien that wins this acolade.

Posted by
1035 posts

Tom, Based on your question, I can tell you will be fine. Be thoughtful, polite and considerate and show a fair attempt at the language and you'll gain respect. Be a loud-mouthed dick and you will feel the wrath.

Posted by
710 posts

Paris to me is our equivalent of New York City. Since you live in Pennsylvania, I guess you have been to New York City and know what I mean. If you get into the French countryside you will find people more open and friendly but still reserved at first.

Posted by
7877 posts

Bonjour, au revoir and a profusion of merci are the keys to smoothing the relations. Shopkeepers, cab drivers, waiters think we are the rude ones when we don't greet and thank according to their custom. I'll throw some oil on the fire by adding that the rudest people I've run into are often not even French but eastern European and other immigrants who haven't been schooled in the French courtesy code. They are often working with large crowds of tourists: selling tickets for sights and boats, serving macaroons at that pastry shop in all the guide books (Angela, Angie, or something), and in the souvenir shops on the rue de Rivoli and on Montmartre. For Shoni with a special needs father, I hope France comes into the 21st century. They really aren't up to speed for special needs. And the woman at the Gare du Nord was disgraceful.

Posted by
8433 posts

As others have said, be polite and learn their customs. Use your French when you can. I found that when I tried to speak French (badly!), they appreciated the effort and they would (if they could) speak English to me. At the very least, ask someone IN FRENCH, if they speak English. Imagine someone approaching you where you live and they begin speaking French to you. How would you react? I think that is where many travelers go wrong when they visit a country that speaks another language. Just by virtue of you asking this question I think you will not have any problems. Remember...if someone is rude to you it is probably not because they are Parisian, they are just rude! You find rude people everywhere!!!

Posted by
1014 posts

I reiterate what Michael Schneider and Bets and others have said. We have been to Paris 5 times. Neither of us speak French. We have learned several phrases that help. Hello, thank you, good morning, good evening, do you speak English?, good bye, how are you, etc. Only met one rude person, and he was a cell phone salesman, so that does not count, wife says. If you are polite, they are polite. If you are loud and rude, they are too. Otherwise, Paris is a wonderful city to visit, sample,smell, see, etc.

Posted by
5266 posts

"I have been to many places in Europe and I chringe when I hear a group of Americans talking." ?? Are Americans not supposed to talk to one another in Europe?? What am I missing?

Posted by
78 posts

"Paris to me is our equivalent of New York City. Since you live in Pennsylvania, I guess you have been to New York City and know what I mean. If you get into the French countryside you will find people more open and friendly but still reserved at first". I agree with this. Now imagine the New Yorker's attitude if everyone came up to them asking questions in French. Common courtesy and an attempt to speak the native language go a long way.

Posted by
104 posts

We have been to Paris 3 times since 2001 and to France 4 times and have only encountered 1 rude person. We show humility about our language skills (my wife speaks a little French), do our best to try to speak French with the aid of a guidebook, are polite & discrete and have no trouble at all. We have met some wonderful & helpful people and are still communicating with a woman that we first met in Paris (she lives in Normandy)-she had us to her home for Sunday dinner and has invited us to stay at her house if we want to. No rudeness there, huh? I would reccomend reading "French or Foe" before your trip. When you understand French culture, it all makes sense and you learn to work with it. None of that "better or worse" stuff, just "different". We'll be going back in May and can hardly wait.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks everyone for your help. basically it all boils down to respect and I am a firm believe that people should be treated with respect no matter where you go. I have two funny stories (at least to me). This summer I went on a fabulous curise. It started in Athens and we went a few days before departure. I studied the basics of Greek and work very hard at pronouciation. I was always greeted with smiles. One of our tour guides said my Greek was so good you wouldn't know I wasn't Greek (of course they could tell I wasn't Greek in other ways). Then in Barcelona I though I was going to be really cool and I learned all the basics in Catalan (especially, I would like a beer please) However, most of the people in bars and resturants etc where not even Spanish and they didn't understand a word I was saying. In fact they had a hard time with Spanish.. I live 110 miles from NYC just across the NJ/PA boarder and go to NYC often. i usually go places where tourists don't go like the opera or ballet or maybe a Starbucks on Columbus Ave etc. I usually encourter lovely kind people. I have high regard for New Yorkers in general.

Posted by
8055 posts

Germans also have a reputation for being loud and rude and I've seen it many times myself. Does that make ALL Germans loud and rude? No. Most all Parisians I've met have been great, and many have been incredibly nice and kind. The rudest people I've observed in Paris were Americans.

Posted by
8055 posts

The article Melanie posted is really good, especially page 3.

Posted by
951 posts

I wonder for those who have had "rude" experiences (and not the ones who have posted here on this specific forum) are confusing "rude" with the Parisians not kissing your butt. Let's take restaurants for instance. Frankly dining out in any European country takes patience. We are so used to 45 min to an hour dining here in the states. In that hour, we are used to servers constantly asking us how are food is and is there anything else they can get us. The servers tend to ask us how are day is going and you can ask the same. they are trying to be personable to us, as sometimes charm can add to a higher tip. And if something is not to our liking, we get it taken back, and maybe a free dessert or the item taken off our ticket. We then immediately get our check as they are cleaning away our plates, as servers look to turn the tables over so they can make more tips. Really, none of this occurs in Europe. The wait staff really know what they are doing, so there is really no need to come back and check on you every 5 minutes. They do not need to charm you as they really are not working for tips, they are paid more. If you do not like how your food is presented to you, then tough. That is how it is cooked and its your fault for not knowing it comes that way. And because Europeans take there time for dinner, don't be upset when it takes you 45 min just to hunt down that check. If it is custom, don't think that it is rudeness. Parisians are not out to kiss our butts. We think its rudeness but really we are just used to a different system.

Posted by
29 posts

i spent two weeks in paris in october and never experienced parisians being rude. in fact, i found them quite friendly and helpful. the closest i came to "rudeness" was annoyance by a couple of store clerks at the end of their workday when i didn't have proper change. not at all unlike anything i'd experience from others or myself here in the US..

Posted by
11450 posts

Michael,, now, that IS funny. I find Parisians no ruder or nicer then any then any other large city dweller who is busy, burnt out( if working in a service job) and trying to just get on with their day without a tourist assuming they will drop everything to help them find the Eiffel Tower,, LOL

Posted by
12400 posts

I would bet that all three, from Berlin, Frankfurt, and Saarbruecken, would say that going to Bavaria is indeed going ins Ausland...how true.

Posted by
8433 posts

My German aunt who lives in Hannover says that people in Bavaria is to Germany what Texas is to the U.S.!! You Texans can take that however you want!!!! By the way, I do enjoy Bavaria, so no insult to them intended.

Posted by
11450 posts

James,, John Denver and the Waltons( ok,, I realize they are fictional) are West Virginians and they are GREAT sterotypes I think, I never knew Americans looked down on Virginians,, that is news to me..

Posted by
843 posts

Been to Paris twice and found the folks there to be as friendly and helpful as any other big city. I enjoyed my time there and the Parisians in no way impacted my travels. If you give some politeness, you will get a reserved politeness back from them. Of course, there may be that one rude person you may come across, but this, in my opinion, will be the exception.

Posted by
8055 posts

I thought it was an obnoxious thing to say James - so I deleted it.

Posted by
1035 posts

"...the Waltons( ok,, I realize they are fictional) are West Virginians ..." No they weren't. They were Virginians.

Posted by
8433 posts

And Sausalito is in Marin County, not Napa Valley... What are the stereotypes of Napa Valley Californians anyway??

Posted by
1020 posts

I haven't read all the replies, so excuse me if this has already been mentioned. In all my travels to many different countries, a genuine smile and a "hello" in the local language goes a long way to breaking down cultural barriers. If that doesn't work, chances are the other person is simply too busy to be bothered or in a bad mood. That says nothing about all the locals. Personally, I've usually found Parisians to be warm and helpful when they have the time.

Posted by
1035 posts

"What are the stereotypes of Napa Valley Californians anyway??" Left-leaning, wine drinking, elitists. Kind of sounds like the French!

Posted by
8433 posts

Michael, you say that like it's a bad thing. ;)

Posted by
1878 posts

You seem to have hit on a hot topic, judging from the number of responses in just a couple of days. I have not read all the responses yet, though I plan to. My answer is that the conventional wisdom about Parisians being rude is not remotely true. Learn ten words of French, please, thank you, hello, goodbye, do you speak English to be courteous. Even if you do not, they will be as nice to you as the folks in any big city. One of my fondest travel memories is getting off the overnight train at 6am from Madrid, arriving at the Gare d'Austerlitz, and showing up at a local cafe to get a coffee. The owner was just opening up and said "Bon jour, bon jour" in the most pleasant, sing-song way I only wish I had been so energetic at that hour. It's funny how that sort of thing can stick with you. If in doubt, stay in the Rue Cler area. Though some say it's too touristy, meaning filled with tourists those who own restaurants in the area know that the tourists bring them business and are not the least bit annoyed!

Posted by
9 posts

I have only been to Paris once before, and it was in March of 1995, so it was a while ago. I am going back this year though. I didn't know a lick of French aside from the usual greeting, thank-you and please. I was fluent in Spanish, though. All the girls I was visiting with spoke either fluent Spanish or German, in addition to English. Only one girl had taken any French and it was only a semester in college. We encountered no problems. In fact, we found that quite a few people were amazingly nice once they found out we were studying abroad. One of my favorite stories is our experience in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Five of us giggly girls were looking for Oscar Wilde's crypt because we wanted to kiss it. We were having trouble figuring out where it was with the map we had. There was a lady putting flowers on a grave and I motioned ot my friends to shush because she was trying to mourn and we were being loud. We continued t look around. When the lady got up leave, she saw we were trying to find a grave. She spoke to us in French and we figured out that she wanted to know who we were looking for. We pointed at the name and she motioned for us to follow her. We did and she took us directly to the crypt. She even went up and kissed it. We all got a good laught out of that. Now if a woman who is grieving for her husband in a graveyard takes the time to take a bunch of giggly girls to a famous gravesite, I find it hard to classify all Parisians as rude.

Posted by
8293 posts

Lately when I have read one of Ansbach James' deriding posts I have been reminded of the poet Robert Burns' lines which go something like this: "Oh, would some Power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us".

Posted by
2349 posts

Ah, Norma, as always your wit and wisdom shine through! The title of that poem is "To a Louse."

Posted by
4365 posts

James, I prefer 'Texan'. Tom, don't worry about the Parisians! Our first trip to Europe started with 6 days in Paris...the Parisians were great! Just do your best with the greetings and that'll get you 90% there. (while reading some Mark Twain this weekend, I learned just exactly what a 'sugarloaf' is...my brain simply bulges with information LOL) EDIT: I've been edited by the Magic Editor...where's the rest of my post?!? It never even posted...8^O

Posted by
8433 posts

Wow James, I guess it's good that I do work for the government. What does that say about me? For what it's worth, I am not an elected official. ;-)

Posted by
3313 posts

Andrea - Is Jerry Brown taking away your cell phone? (Sometimes a thread just takes its own direction and you have to let it go...)

Posted by
10308 posts

BTW, John Denver is not from West Virginia. He just wrote a song about it. So, let's sum up.....Americans are loud, French are rude, Germans can be loud, rude or inbred depending on what area of the country they live in, Northern Californians are liberals, Texans are from a different country, and no one seems to know much about West Virginia. Anyone have any more travel stereotypes they want to add? Just remember, when you stereotype an entire people, don't be upset if someone stereotype's you.

Posted by
977 posts

Shoni, I'm not sure if it's an urban myth or reality, that the French generally, do not like the English. Must be a carry over from the 100 year war!! When in Paris recently, before attempting to use my high school French, I began with the phrase 'Je suis Australien, to set the record straight that I wasn't English, just in case that urban myth was true. Worked well, but not with the cab drivers. With the exception of one lovely lady driver on our last day in Paris, we found the cab drivers rude, unhelpful and a major pain in the butt.
There is no doubt, the French people in regional France are a different breed than the majority of Parisians.

Posted by
8433 posts

Doug, I don't work for the State, so Jerry can't take my phone! Hopefully his decisions don't all trickle down... ;-)

Posted by
7 posts

Ok,since this thread changed a little since my orginal question, there is another question I have about Paris. Anyone have a recommendation for a hotel in La Marais?

Posted by
7 posts

we have heard from Germany, England, Canada (including Quebec), Austrialia and the US. Wouldn't have been cool to have heard from a Parisain or a French person from another part of the country. What do French persons think of Parisains?

Posted by
988 posts

I bet they don't don't like being referred to as Parisains!

Posted by
1280 posts

Tom - Check out the Hotel Castex in the Marais.

Posted by
17 posts

My wife and I were very cautious during our trip to Paris several years ago. Maybe it was because our expectations were so low due to the rumors of how rude the locals are in Paris but we must say that we loved our trip to Paris. The people were not rude at all. We did not get lots of people going out of there way to great us and welcome us to Paris mind you but they were simply pleasant and minded there own business. As long as you go there with the right expectations and spend the time to learn a dozen French words you should LOVE your trip to Paris. We have been to most of the major European cities and Paris is # 1 in our unofficial ratings book (by the way Switzerland is # 1 on our country list and the train ride between Oslo to Bergen with the side trip to the Flam town and boat is the hands down # 1 day trip for scenery).

Posted by
171 posts

Many, many years ago, my husband and I had one night to spend in Paris. We were staying in the airport Hilton, and decided to take a cab to the city, and asked the driver, very politely, to take us to the Eiffel Tower. The driver claimed not to understand us. We tried again, in bad French, and again, he indicated he did not understand. How could a cab driver picking up tourists at an airport hotel in Paris NOT understand "Eiffel Tower" in ANY language? We were very polite, we attempted to speak his language, and yet he acted like he had no idea what we were asking. We could see the Eiffel Tower, and pointed, but instead he drove in the opposite direction until we made him drop us off, quite a distance away, in the middle of nowhere. It took an hour to find our way to where we wanted to be. It began to rain, so we stopped in a cheap cafe for coffee, and although we were soaking wet and freeezing, we were refused service although there was a good sized crowd and it did not appear to be closing time. We were well dressed, if wet. This the first night of our honeymoon, our first introduction to Paris. We left the next day for Germany, and I have never been back to Paris in thirty years of Euopean travel. So, do I think Parisians are rude? Probably not all of them, but we were treated so inhospitably for no reason we could discern, that I have never felt any interested in returning.

Posted by
150 posts

"Wouldn't have been cool to have heard from a Parisain or a French person from another part of the country. What do French persons think of Parisains?" French people outside of Paris (and the Ile-de-France region) often have a dislike of Parisians whom they consider to be haughty and condescending. The fact that France outside of Paris is simply called "La Province" demonstrates this in my opinion. Here in Marseille Parisians are also disliked for historical reasons, for example the time Louis XIV built forts guarding the entrance of the city, except the cannons were pointing inwards in order to keep the population in check; or when during the revolution Marseille was scornfully officially renamed "La Ville Sans Nom"* (the City Without A Name") as the people were thought to be lacking enough revolutionary fanaticism by the central government. All over France there are similar anecdotes and events. It's worth noting however that many Parisians actually come from elsewhere in France and the rest of the world, like any major capital it attracts people from outside all the time. The average Parisian on the metro could well have been born and raised in Brittany, Alsace or Senegal. *For similar reasons Lyon was renamed "La Ville Franche" ("the Free City") which reminds me of the whole Freedom Fries episode.

Posted by
331 posts

spell check... unless you're female and then it's Parisienne. Judy interesting that you thought it would make a difference to mention that you are Australian. I found a better reaction in Paris when I mentioned that I am a Scot, (the Auld Alliance and all that, united against the English), made one hell of a difference. This is why I mentioned in a previous post that Americans may be advised to let everyone know when in Paris that they are indeed American (or at least not English) if they want better service or just basic friendliness. The French port of Calais and surrounding area belonged to England in Tudor times and these slights take centuries to forget. Bad blood flows both ways and close neighbours often take years to forget old grievances.

Posted by
331 posts

and unfortunately James very few people can get over their sensitivities because they are unable to laugh at themselves, (a prerequisite in my book for being in a healthy position to laugh at others) and there are many amongst us who take ourselves too seriously and act as though we are the regulator of the forum. In my nightmares there seems to be more than one webmaster. I'm with you on this one James and that's a first, no one should be off limits, otherwise we could be accused of being exclusionist.

Posted by
250 posts

Six trips, never, ever had a problem. Truly - be nice and they are nice in return.

Posted by
331 posts

For those of you that think that Germans and humour = oxymoron, I will endevour to explain a German joke. Two dogs are chatting. Dog 1: Vot is your name? Dog 2: I do not know Dog 1: I sink I am called 'sitz' because it is vot my humans say mostly to me Dog 2: In zat case I sink zat I must be of noble birth. Dog 1: Vy? Dog 2: Because my humans mostly call me Runter (short for herunter, meaning 'get down') Von der Couch! This joke has Germans rolling in the aisles, who says they don't have a sense of humour?

Posted by
8293 posts

So, Shoni, do the Germans who find this so hilarious tell this joke to one another in English with a German accent?

Posted by
331 posts

Ja! und wir lachen daruber! Ein wunderbarer Hund - Runter von der Couch, won Crufts last year in the Colditz ears category.

Posted by
171 posts

For anyone interested in further exploration of German humor, I suggest "Talk Dirty - German" by Alexis Munier and Karin Eberhardt.