How are Americans treated in Paris?

Oct 12th, 2003, 06:26 PM
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we spent two weeks in france - one in paris in august. found most people to be friendly - my husband sometimes inadvertantly spoke to them in German first and they usually laughed at that; hotel staffs were nice, policemen were very rude when I asked directions (in french no less); wait staff were generally pleasant but as the other posters said, greet them in french when possible, ask if they speak english, say goodby when you leave, don't just launch into questions, etc. smile - it is a universal language...and if they don't respond, to heck with them.
cmeyer54 is offline  
Oct 12th, 2003, 07:47 PM
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No, the French are not "open and cheerful." That doesn't mean they aren't nice, decent people. Americans are "open and cheerful" to the extreme, so much so that many cultures think we are affected and innocent.
Greeting people with a smile is a good start, but in France it is essential to greet people with a "Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur" as well. It's just part of the culture. As is saying "Merci, Madame/Monsieur" and "Au Revoir Madame/Monsieur" whenever you leave someplace. Those simple actions will gain you zillions of brownie points with the Parisians. They won't care so much about the smile as they will about you observing the ritual of hellos, thank-yous, and good-byes.
StCirq is online now  
Oct 13th, 2003, 05:45 AM
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Here's my vote for being "open and cheerful" rather than "glum and suspicious", but maybe I'm just "affected and innocent."

And to think we can change everything just by saying "Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur" and "Merci, Madame/Monsieur" and "Au Revoir Madame/Monsieur".

Alas, if only it were that simple!
Oct 13th, 2003, 06:02 AM
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Degas, my husband says I wear people down with my good cheer! I hate to frown and I am always so happy to be there that I go around grinning and happy with everyone. This seems to reflect in the way they treat me. I have never had a bad experience in Paris. I have always been treated well and even had a few laughs with a taxi driver who could not speak English and I was able to direct him to our hotel. If you heard my French, you would appreciate how comical and miraculous it was that we got to that hotel.
AS long as I can remember, there have been people with negative things to say about the French. It is almost boring now-something I expect to hear.
Scarlett is offline  
Oct 13th, 2003, 06:10 AM
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scarlett, I just knew YOU would be cheerful overseas.

My expectations are low for folks returning my smiles, but every once in a while I'll see a frown turn into a slight smile or at least see the frost melt a tad bit.

I just think you get more out of a trip by thinking positive and being able to overlook a few cultural differences.

Now, about those pungent hairy armpits on a crowed metro car in the middle of august in Paris .....
Oct 13th, 2003, 07:59 AM
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"pungent hairy armpits"....This is when I prefer to walk, take a bus or taxi. There are some things that even Scarlett will not smile about
Scarlett is offline  
Oct 13th, 2003, 09:28 AM
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Question: Did you interrupt someone and then were they rude? Did you prefix request with, "Excuse me."? So called rude behavior is often simply a reflexive response to some cultural gaffe. Europeans and Americans not in the tourist trade resent interferences in their life by strangers. What has happened to 'Emily Post'?
GSteed is offline  
Oct 13th, 2003, 11:32 AM
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I've heard that the French have changed the name of Kentucky Fried Chicken to DeGaulle Fried Chicken to get us back for the Freedom Fried insult.
SteveJudd is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 04:04 PM
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1. Seamus: Not "je m'excuse", please -- It is more correct to say "Excusez-moi".

I've been told Je m'excuse sounds perfunctory to the point of brusqueness -- rather like the hasty, self-important "Sorry BUT..."

2. Parisians are noticeably nicer than they were 20 or 30 years ago. I think there was some sort of educational campaign.

3. RE politeness: There isn't just one version.

Well-bred Frenchmen might be appalled...or amused... or merely confused by the "faux bonhomme" mateyness and the relentless personal questioning in which "friendly" Americans (are reputed to) indulge.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 04:21 PM
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I hope the above paste works. Please refer to this thread. I just got back from 7 days in Paris and was prepared to experience rudeness. To my surprise, I found most French people to be very polite and pleasant. They do have their own expectations of what is and what is not rude or polite, and if you step out of those expectations, they will become annoyed. Conversely, I had no trouble observing rudeness in Paris, committed by American tourists! so everything is relative.
I do not speak French but I did learn a few words and phrases, the most useful was, "Sil vous plait , pouve-vous mai'de en Anglais?" (Please, can you help in English?) (Feel free to correct my spelling) When the French saw that I was making and effort to 1) speak their language and 2) be polite, unlike other Americans they had experienced, they fell over themselves being helpful. So take the time to make sure YOU are being polite, and you will usually be treated in kind.
docdan is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 04:24 PM
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Better to be a donkey than a trouble maker.
God be with you.
cigalechanta is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 04:56 PM
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When I was in Paris, I was treated EXTREMELY well, and this is the advice that I was given (which really worked), as well as some observations.
1) "American" politeness is slightly different than "French" politeness, in this way. We tend to think of politeness as smiling really brightly, being friendly, etc. French courtesy is very much about unobtrusive, almost diffident show that you are "bien eleve(e)" (well brought-up). Therefore, smiling really brightly is not nearly as effective as a polite nod and a "bonjour madame/monsieur." In the U.S., we smile a lot to show others that we are nice people, but in France it is sometimes perceived as false amicability. Respectful/civil politeness is better received than friendliness.
2) As others have said before, ALWAYS greet the proprieters of small stores, boulangeries, cafes, etc, with "bonjour madame/monsieur" and say "au revoir" when you leave.
3) As others have also said, Parisians (like other city-dwellers) tend to be brusque, so it is important to show confidence, even if your French is not very good. Also, it does not hurt to dress as the French do, which is slightly more formally. Although these things should not matter, I was treated with the most courtesy on the days in which I wore a skirt or nice trousers.
4) Being too loud is considered gauche, and you will probably notice early on that most people speak rather softly in public places.

Have a wonderful time, and don't worry about it. You will be in Paris!!
perstephanie is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 05:27 PM
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I want to add about shopping,. Here we pick up a sweater in a boutique and unfold it. There that is rude, you ask which item you want to look at and the salesperson with show it to you.
cigalechanta is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 06:41 PM
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I've visited quite a few times. Yes, I have encountered some rude locals and not because I was rude to them. They were just not pleasant. What I mean is you can encounter rude people anywhere and Paris is no exception.
francophile03 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2006, 07:59 AM
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Francophile is, of course, correct.
I have travelled much more within the US than overseas and have encounterred rudeness and genuine acts of kindness everywhere I have gone. For that matter, I have probably committed acts of rudeness and/or kindness myself, intentionally or otherwise. What is interesting is that, for instance, when I return from a trip from Wash, DC, no one asks me if I had trouble with cab drivers who claim not to speak English and claim not to carry change but who mysteriously know the long way from point A to B, which is a documented reality in that town. Conversely, lots of people quickly asked, upon my return from Paris, if I encounterred rude French manners. Well, of course I did, but no more and no less than anywhere else in the world I have travelled. The French are not perfect, but to assume they are universally rude is simply untrue and unfair to them. The reality is that the majority of French people were pleasant and polite to me, especially when I made an effort to be potile to them. The above posting by francophile is exactly the correct answer.
docdan is offline  
Apr 10th, 2006, 12:38 PM
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We have been to Paris several times, and have always been treated kindly. In fact, I can think of times when Parisians have gone out of their way to help us. We were looking for the Arenes de Lutece, and an older woman pulling her grocery cart, motioned for us to follow her. Another time someone drew a map for us when we were lost. Enjoy your first trip to Paris!

sandypaws3 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2006, 12:54 PM
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One more comment on 'je m'excuse' It's not that it sounds rude, but that it isnt at all what you think you are saying. It is the same as 'je me pardonne' - as in I pardon (or excuse) MYSELF, but what you really mean to say is 'please would YOU excuse (pardon) me.' Excusez-moi, or pardonnez-moi are both therefore correct.

We find people in the Dordogne incredibly welcoming and helpful.

What takes some time getting used to is that they acknowledge you on meeting and leaving. So when you go into the post ofice, or the doctor's office you greet the other people there - Bonjour Monsieur/Madame. As other people have commented, on entering and leaving restaurants and shops.

What still does amuse me though is going to a meeting, or for a walk with a group of friends - always the ritual of greeting EVERYONE with a kiss or a handshake. But now we're so used to it that it seems strange and very cold when I go back to North America and people just arrive and don't get kissed!

And finally, everyone we have stay with us says how friendly people were. It's obviously not Paris here in the Dordogne, but just imagine if you lived in Paris and had all those millions of tourists every year. Yes, it's great that they come, but it's not surprising that sometimes people arent quite as responsive and helful as they might be.
Carlux is offline  
Apr 10th, 2006, 01:38 PM
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I always wonder whether people who spout negative opnions about the French have actually been in France themselves. Quite a lot of the comments seem to be in the category of urban legends.
Underhill is offline  
Apr 10th, 2006, 03:11 PM
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In his study of the French, "Les Français Aussi Ont Un Accent", the Canadian journalist Jean-Benoît Nadeau lists four rules, which he calls the basic survival kit for North Americans in France (my translation).

1. Only smile if you must. In France, someone who smiles without reason is taken to be a prostitute, a hypocrite, or a peddlar.

2.Excuse yourself before asking for information, and explain the nature of your problem. The French love to come to the rescue.

3. In a shop, always say "bonjour" when entering and "au revoir" when leaving. In North America, businesses are seen as an extension of a public place, while in France, it's the opposite: the extension of the shopkeeper's house, and thus the vital necessity for the greeting.

4. Speak in a low voice. The French have a pronounced sense of private life, and don't like to be invaded.

If you can read French, this is a wonderfully witty book about France and the French, which he subtitles, "Anthropological Misadventures of a Québecois Among the French". If you don't read French, he and his wife, Julie Barlow, have written a similar book about their time in France "Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong" which is a great guide to the way things are done and work (or don't) in France.
laverendrye is offline  

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