Les Parisiens

Before I tell you about my week in London and other adventures/thoughts that have transpired since leaving Paris, allow me one final post about Paris — about les Parisiens.

The people of Paris did not live up to their reputation at all.

You know this reputation — they are rude, they swear at you, they refuse to speak in French to you because your French is terrible, the ignore you, they may even yell at you to show their affection.

I found, rather, the Parisians (or, I suppose, provincials in Paris?) were very sympa et gentils. They smiled. They answered me. They spoke in French. One on occasion, I told a Frenchman, ‘Pardon, mon francais n’est pas tres bien.‘ (No accents — too hard to type ’em.) He spoke more slowly, and told me about his plan to organise a graffiti art camp for kids. Cool idea.

I admit that one of the employees at the Bibliotheque nationale would never repeat things when I said, ‘Pardon?‘ He would just shake his head and then get angry when I didn’t do what he wanted. But I think he was just a jerk, regardless of his Frenchness. Most were much more pleasant than he.

Indeed, people would help me with my French. At a restaurant, I say, ‘To go — a emporter?’ A smile, ‘Oui, a emporter.’ This sort of genial assistance from cafe employees was common. It helped me get by, bien sur.

I do not know the source of this. More provincials in Paris? The world adjusting to the reality of foreigners of every stripe in every major western city? An undeserved reputation?

All I know is, I’m glad for it, and hope to visit Paris again.

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