The Parisian


She sits in a cafe, holding her cigarette between her slender fingers… her mouth in a gentle pout, letting whomever know that while she is not easily pleased, it would be worth it to try.

He strolls the narrow street, hands in his pockets yet with an unmistakable air of confidence. He is in no hurry. He pauses to stare at the lady seated at the corner cafe, enjoying the view. He makes his appreciation known through his eyes. She returns his stare with a half-smile, daring him to come over and try and crack her cold veneer.

The Parisian. To an outsider, they seem rude. Obnoxious. Arrogant. What is missing in this assessment however is the simple understanding of how this city, the reportedly most romantic city in the world, actually works. Paris… synonymous with romance, lovers (both true and illicit), history and the arts. A bohemian chic ambiance that hears your suggestions, yet continues to do as she pleases, making you love her even more. How to bend this city to your will? Simply put, you cannot. In order to truly tap into the undercurrent that runs the capital of France, you need become a master of one small skill: flirtation.

Need something from le garçon in the cafe? Wave him down, surely. But expect nothing unless you accompany that gesture with a tilt of your head and a bat of your eyelashes. How to insure the taxi driver takes you to your destination via the fastest route? Flash a brilliant smile as you hop in. The French are the absolute masters of this game, and they appreciate the effort in trying to play. From the bank, the post office, to the bureaucracy… the best way to get a Parisian to work for you is to charm them into doing so. To a Parisian, this adds that richness in life that tourists but observe, and the joie de vivre which they envy.

Learn to play the game, and you will be surprised at how doors will fall open at your feet in the City of Lights. Allow yourself to get caught up in it, and you may find yourself never wanting to leave.

  • I think I’m like this all the time, playing the game I mean. It’s like the old saying, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I love everything about this post though, fantastic.

    • I love that old adage!! It so reminds me of how things operate in the South (much of my family is in coastal Alabama). It really does you no favors to be rude. And so glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

  • You all would love it!! It has such a unique vibe to it. the film “Midnight in Paris” really captures that essence so well! 🙂

  • I LOVE this!! Couldn’t be more true! I found that I got on really well in Paris because I am naturally very smiley and friendly in my approach towards people so when others told me Parisians were rude, I just didn’t see it.
    Of course, their demeanor can be rude at times but I think it’s down to the hustle and bustle of their lifestyles. If you chat to one for more than 2 minutes, it totally blows this out of the water!

    • Absolutely!! If you want to connect with a Parisian, you sort of have to play by their rules! Make an effort, smile, try to speak a little French and they are some of the most lovely people out there. Obviously, there are a few bad apples, but that can happen anywhere! A lot of the perception of rudeness really just boils down to cultural differences, in my opinion. 🙂

    • The Wondernuts

      so very true. we never saw it either. We loved Paris. =)

  • Perfection! I think this is one of my favorites that you have written. The imagery takes me there, romances me and indices me to want to give Paris another chance. Beautiful Amy!

    • Thank you!! I had a really great time reminiscing and writing this post, and I think I have to agree with you and say it’s one of my favorites as well!! 🙂

  • I seriously enjoy your style of writing, the way you capture interactions like that so artfully. I haven’t been in France long enough to notice nuances like this yet but now I’m going to keep my eye out for it!

    • Thank you so much!! You’ll definitely find that undercurrent within French culture if you keep your eye out for it. Make eye contact with someone next time you are getting stared at in a cafe (they do stare all the time, don’t they?) and it’s amazing how much the people really “talk” with their eyes and facial expressions! 🙂

      • It’s weird because I’ve spent most of my time here trying NOT to make eye contact… I thought that’s just what they did! But yes, they definitely stare ALL the time. Cars even slow down to stare when my friends and I are walking around!

        • Yep, that happens!! The staring thing used to really get under my skin, but eventually I learned to just ignore it in most cases. Definitely avoid eye contact on any form of public transportation!! 🙂

  • Margarita

    I adore this, it’s definitely very true. Many of my friends who have visited Paris find it rude or unwelcoming – but another simple “rule” is that when entering a store, ALWAYS say BONJOUR!! People don’t realise how simple this is, but it’s just how it’s done in France. You enter a store, you say hello!

    • This is so true!! And they consider it so rude to not even acknowledge them with a simple hello before you basically ask them to serve you… makes sense when you think about it! And that holds true for anywhere – a cafe, boulangerie, the bank – always always says bonjour first!

  • I think a lot of it could do with how busy the area is – you’re probably less likely to get a smile in the Sephora on Champs Elysées as there is usually about a million people in that store! My local boulangerie though, always greeted with a huge smile and a very enthusiastic bonjour. 🙂

    • I’ve remembered this article, and went to Paris for the first time last year. During almost 2 weeks in Paris I found Parisians to be friendly, so the reputation for rudeness seems very unjustified to me.

      The only time you could say someone seemed rude was when I asked if they had a paper bag in a Provins’ patisserie – “Why do you want a bag, you’re supposed to eat it now!” she shouted, rather unimpressed with my request.

      Yes, but I have my dinner to eat first, and I want to eat it after. I’m on the way to the train station so can’t come back… Nevermind – I smiled and said “merci” anyway and she gave me a big smile and a “bon appétit”.

  • Yes! The lack of queues is somewhat affronting when you don’t know to expect it. I remember being somewhere and being elbowed out of the way in a queue to board a plane, by a man. Being from the South in the US where manners reign supreme, this was totally contradictory! But, it was their culture, their rules! I agree with you – the little nuances of cultural difference definitely make travel more interesting. 🙂

  • Denise @adiamondabroad

    Love this, and what a fun thing to try next time I’m in Paris!

    • It is an interesting sub-current of French culture!! I have found though that there is sooo much communication that goes on without words. If you don’t pay attention, you’re missing out on half of what this city is all about!! 🙂

  • Such a wonderful post! I love it. I need to find another opportunity to try and play the Parisian game. Hopefully in 2014…

    • Thank you so so much!! I myself am trying to get back sometime next year as well, need to get my annual fix!! 🙂

  • This is beautiful, Amy! I love how you set the scene so perfectly that I can imagine being the girl at the cafe. I have only been to Paris once, and it was quite the overwhelming experience, but the next time I return, I’ll be paying more attention to interactions such as these.

    • Thank you Sarah!! Paris can be completely overwhelming – I remember feeling exactly the same way on my first trip there. Once I got to know the city better and had the extra attention available to start noticing how the people interact, and the best ways to get good service! lol 🙂