How are Americans treated in Paris?

Oct 11th, 2003, 10:45 PM
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How are Americans treated in Paris?

My husband has been getting some negative feedback from friends who have told him that the French are not friendly, open, cheerful, etc., when dealing with Americans. This will be our first trip to France.

Since we are used to greeting people with a smile, we are wondering if we need to adjust our attitudes for this trip (which would be unfortunate).
Sheila946 is offline  
Oct 11th, 2003, 11:06 PM
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Sheila, My mother & I were in Paris last week and had a wonderful time. We were there for 5 nights and did not encounter even one rude person. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful.

The French do appreciate it if you greet them in French and ask them in French if they speak English. These simple courtesies go a long way (and a smile certainly won't hurt!).

Also, when you leave a shop, always say Au Revoir, it's just common courtesy to them.
SusanP is online now  
Oct 12th, 2003, 12:46 AM
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In my experience, people are a mirror of how you are to them. When you enter say Bonjour and when you exit say AuRevoir as the previous post said. Are they Americans, big, loud and friendly? No but they are friendly and helpful. Go with a good attitude and you will have a great time.
tdiddy1 is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 04:02 AM
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This subject comes up time after time; the french are not overly chatty but will be polite and respond to your questions in a very precise way. The french are friendlier in the countryside imo..... but from my experience, they are people with a lot of reserve and privateness, so they don't come across as friendly in the american way of chit chatting, or asking you where you are from, etc...
They will dismiss you quickly, and be to the point, usually. That is not unfriendly, imo....
mitchdesj is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 05:16 AM
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Please don't turn a wonderful smile into a frown!

Keep your expectations low and be happy that you are in such a great city. Focus on the many positive aspects of Paris and not a few minor encounters with curt waiters or cold shop girls.

Yes, some people in Paris can be rude, but they do that to everybody, not just Americans. Don't take it personal. You will also find many who are kind and polite.

If you have a positive attitude and smile, you might just be repaid well for your efforts.
Oct 12th, 2003, 07:09 AM
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Hi Sheila,

Parisians treat Americans as they treat everyone else - politely, professionally and a bit brusquely.
ira is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 08:27 AM
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I was in Paris last week and agree with all of the previous posters. Ignore the stories about Parisien rudeness.
itswoody is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 08:38 AM
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The parisians are not worse than the Newyorkers...Some are friendly and some are not...I was in France this past July for a couple of weeks and I was always treated with respect, and never felt any antagonism toward me or my family. Dont believe what other people say, because everybody has a different perceptions about things or people.
Have a good time and enjoy La Ville Lumiere..
kismetchimera is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 09:16 AM
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I agree with most of what people say above and think Ira is right. What you wrote that your husband reported doesn't really sound wrong, either, but you are culturally and personally calling that negative and wanting others to act towards strangers the same way you do and/or the way you perceive Americans do. I think that's the problem, so maybe you should change your attitudes that the way you do things is better and it is negative if strangers aren't overtly open and friendly with you. Your description that it is negative that the French are not open and cheerful to strangers, and tourists in particular (as that is really what you will be encountering and what those reports are about), doesn't really sound that different than where I live and most big cities in the US, especially East Coast cities. I don't think anyone will object to you greeting people with a smile as long as you don't loudly complain about how people aren't acting the way you want them to. The behavior you quote doesn't have anything to do with behavior towards Americans in particular, as I think Ira said.
Christina is online now  
Oct 12th, 2003, 09:43 AM
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Here's another opinion/experience. We were in Paris in July a few years ago at the height of tourist season and summer sales. We did find Parisians to be very brusque bordering on rude, but I wouldn't say they were antagonistic. If you've ever had to take your kids to Disney World at the peak of summer, you'd find it no different. Our hotel's staff was wonderful and so were the people when we got off the beaten track. Extend the common courtesies and you'll be fine.
Jayne11159 is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 09:52 AM
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Ah, how pitiful that such silly attitudes persist... as others have said, retain your smile, remember that you are on THEIR turf, learn some basic words and you will be fine. Here are a few that will be helpful:
bonjour [bone ZHOOR] - good day, hello in daytime hours
bonsoir [bone SWAR]- good evening,
hello in evening time
au revoir [oh VWAHR]- good bye
s'il vous plait [see voo PLAY] - please
merci [mer SEE] thank you
je m'excuse [zhe mex CUES] pardon me - often followed by-
ou se trouve... [oo seh TROOVE] where is... - often follwed by
la toilette [la twa LET]- rest room
le metro [le meh TRO]- subway
je voudrais... [zhe voo DRAY] - I would like.. often followed by a finger pointing to something!

I'm sure others can add to this list
Seamus is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 10:37 AM
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Lance Armstrong said he found the French friendlier this year--no mention of political differences.
LVSue is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 10:48 AM
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I just got back from Paris 2 weeks ago and I cannot remember anyone being rude or nasty. Just learn a few French words, smile, beg for forgiveness and be nice.

The only negitive factor is the gypsies. Be aware of you belonging and wallet at all times. If nayone crowds you, pushes you or seemd to be doing anything to distract you, including trying to offer help, immediately grab your wallet and put your back to the wall.

Have fun!
richardab is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 11:13 AM
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Thank you all so much for your responses -- it's all a matter of perspective, as these posts indicate.

We are looking forward to our trip more than ever!
Sheila946 is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 11:20 AM
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Sheila, most of the negative feedback is probably coming from people with little experience and/or an inability to "tune in" a different culture very easily. After many visits to France and Paris, I've consistently found the French to be more polite (and perhaps even a bit more formally so) than Americans are. Yes, you may occasionally encounter someone who is a bit on the aloof side but certainly nothing that would have a lasting, negative impact on the quality of your visit, I'm sure.

I see you've had a number of posts and it is your first visit. I'm sure you and your husband will have a wonderful time. Here are some notes that I have online, (in the unlikely event that you haven't BURIED yourself in research. You can click on the small pics on the bottom of those entries that have them and they will enlarge):

Bon voyage!

Flyboy is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 02:18 PM
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We just got back from 15 nights in France, 3 in Paris. We were treated by all (except one grumpy breakfast waiter) very cordially. However, we did greet everyone with Bonjour, we did ask if they spoke English in French and did say merci or au revoir when departing. When we had trouble with a telephone at a museum one of the attendants who spoke minimal english tried to help, actually apologized in French for not being able to, and a few moments later another attendant appeared who was asked by the first to try to help us.

I actually think the Parisiens were nicer on this trip than in the Past.

Go, be positive and polite, use French words when you can, numbers are good too and have a wonderful time.
MGB is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 03:22 PM
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I've been to Paris twice, and had no negative experiences either time. I am convinced this is because I made sure to go with both a positive attitude, and my trusty little phrase book.

As everyone has mentioned already, ATTEMPT TO USE FRENCH FIRST, even if you don't do it very well. That is the courteous thing to do (you are in THEIR country, after all, not the other way around), and your effort will be appreciated!!

BrimhamRocks is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 04:24 PM
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It's been said before in previous posts on this subject, but Parisians' lives don't stop because American tourists are in town. THey're not going to do backflips and heap admiration on their houseguests, they're going to treat you just like they'd treat anyone else.
I think a lot of Americans (inc. me on my first trip to Europe) expect some kind of red carpet welcome. It's much easier and much more satisfying to try to blend. (When in Paris ...)
martytravels is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 04:52 PM
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I agree with the previous posts -
1)remember that the French tend to be more reserved and formal than Americans
2)Always try to start off a conversation or request in French (even if your French is not good)
3) Always, Always, say hello when you enter a shop and say good-bye when you leave.
4) Try not to converse in loud voices in restaurants, unless all the other patrons are louder than you!

I used to take French lessons from an ex-Parisian woman, and she offered the following insight:
The French like to hear a language spoken well, and are often timid about speaking in English because they don't think their English is very good (even though they may well speak very good English). So, if you start off speaking not-so-good French, they will see that your French is worse than their English and be less shy about speaking English.
Dlemma is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 06:06 PM
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Hi, Sheila946!

Try getting a copy of Polly Platt's Savoir Flair. Funny read and educational too as far as getting along in France is concerned. You'll enjoy it!

jason888 is offline  

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