I like to think of myself as an experienced traveler and don’t show any signs of being a tourist while exploring, but I know better than that. I look up at tall buildings and stare a little too hard while people-watching. To prepare for my 2019 trip to France, I reminded myself of the saying I’m sure we have all heard before: French people are rude. If you know me, I’m pretty sensitive and don’t do well with confrontation. Was I expecting this to happen? No, but I wanted to think realistically if the rumors were true. However, what I experienced in Paris set a new precedent for the Parisian attitude.
I did run into a few snags during my stay, but my overall experience with the people of Paris was a positive one. Two instances that come to mind right away were at Le Cafe de Chats or the cafe with cats! The hostess greeted me kindly. I tried my best to speak French to her, but I only learned a few phrases and quickly had to switch to English. As the conversation progressed, she actually apologized to me for not speaking better English. I couldn’t believe it! I am in her country, not knowing her native language, and she is sorry. I apologized for not learning more French before coming here and she got a big smile and showed me to my table.
As I was enjoying my dessert board, watching the cats roam around the cafe, I was partaking in my favorite travel pastime of people-watching. It was then that I heard an excusez-moi directed toward me. A woman around my age started asking me a question in French. I initially panicked as I racked my brain for my newly acquired French phrases. The only one I came up with was, “ Do you speak English?”. She immediately said sorry in French and went about her business. Even though I couldn’t help her, I still felt accomplished. It meant I looked the part of a local which is always a goal of mine.
One night in the Tuileries Gardens, I was waiting for the lights of the Eiffel. There was a workout class doing chair sits that kept me entertained. Lots of people were relaxing and winding down. A couple was sitting close to me and the man came over to ask me a question. If I remember correctly, he started speaking in English and he asked for a piece of paper. I had one in my purse that I tried to give him but he said no. He then pointed to his nose so I put together that he meant a tissue. I handed him one and he thanked me. Even with the language barrier, we can still communicate and get our point across.
Perhaps one of my favorite interactions was with one of my Airbnb hosts. She was very thoughtful and made sure I felt at home. She wanted to know what plans I had and made recommendations for me. On the morning of my last day, she set out a Minnie Mouse bowl for my cereal because she knew I went to Disneyland Paris the day before. It was a perfect way to end my time in France.
While it is important to take in any and all information about the places you travel to, it is equally necessary to keep an open mind. I went in prepared to face a bunch of rude Parisians and left with my heart full of the kindness I received from the select few. Sure, I did run into a few of the status quo strangers, but the friendly faces of France won my heart and made me want to revisit the city of lovers in the future.