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‘Being Parisian is neither a function, a state nor a profession – and yet it is all that. It is unique and it is invaluable – also not for sale . For being Parisian is not a question of will nor a matter of fortune, it’s not even a question of value. It is an indefinable mixture of wit, taste, snobbery, gullibility, bravery and amorality’ – Sacha Guitry.
So many quotes like this exist about the elusive Parisian. So, what are Parisians truly like? Read our list of Parisian stereotypes you should not believe.
This stereotype was proven wrong after a devastating series of terror attacks in November 2015. French citizens were advised to stay inside, borders were closed and the government issued a state of emergency. Parisians immediately took to Twitter with the hashtag #porteouverte (open door) and offered safety and shelter to tourists stuck in Paris. They flung open the door to their home and welcomed perfect strangers with open arms even though the imminent threat of danger still lurked.
Yes, it is true that Parisians have excellent taste in food. It would be hard not to, living in one of the global capitals of gourmet food. But, this doesn’t mean that Parisians are snobbish when it comes to trying new things. Parisians have revolutionized American street food by making it healthier and more enticing. Food trucks can be seen lurking almost everywhere on Parisian boulevards nowadays. Add another ingredient to the Paris food truck scene, like a New York cab, and voilà you’ll feel like you’re in New York! Hungry, busy, and looking to grab a bite to eat, Parisians can be seen queueing up even during a torrential downpour. Some McDonald’s restaurants in Paris have rolled out gourmet burgers, which has even left Parisians using their hands, instead of a fork and knife.
Far too often Hollywood films have portrayed Frenchmen as suave womanizers hopping into bed, at any cost, with innocent women only to leave them heartbroken. It’s no wonder visitors to the French capital believe that Parisian men are exactly like Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier or Jean-Pierre Aumont. In a culture where every conversation begins with a kiss, wine and champagne are common at nearly every meal, and general politeness is practically worshipped, it is hard not to get this impression. But relax, this is not a plan to get you into bed, it is just all a part of French culture and is considered to be normal.
Those who think this really haven’t done their research. Yes, the French are notorious for their vacation time, but they deserve it. For Parisians, the vaunted ’35 hour work’ tends to actually be a lot closer to 40. How could the Parisian economy function only on 35 hours a week if you’re working in the French stock market’s (CAC 40)? Parisians put in an average of 39.5 hours per week, which is not far behind the Eurozone average of 40.9 hours per week. Now, on to the topic of vacation, instead of being paid for their overtime most Parisians choose to be compensated in leisure time. Adding this on to the standard five weeks of paid vacation is probably where the notion comes from that Parisians are always on vacation. But, trust us, there is no time for a nap if you’re working à Paris!
This stereotype may be a bit more true than the others, (have you ever ridden in a taxi in Paris?) but we digress. Many Parisian’s attitudes towards the environment have changed, and with it their lifestyle. Parisians don’t want to live in a polluted city, spend their day in traffic jams, or commuting. They have opted for an alternative solution – the Vélib’. Cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and healthy, the vélib‘, launched by the Mayor of Paris in 2007 is a large-scale public bicycle self-service system available 24 hours a day, all year round. Bike lanes adorn almost every avenue and boulevard in Paris. The concept is simple, just take a bike from a designated bike stand and return it to any other bike stand you like in Paris.
Parisians don’t bite their tongue when they’re annoyed, so obviously when you catch a few of their heated exchanges they may come off as being very rude, obnoxious and grumpy. But, like in any large city, you need to be aggressive in Paris and Parisians are aware of this. This may be why Parisians come off as bad tempered at first, but many Parisians are just as nice, friendly, and open as any average person. We suggest you take the time to have a conversation with a Parisian, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
In France, the right to strike is recognized and guaranteed by the Constitution, a right that union militants take advantage of during protests that are regularly held in the French capital. Parisians are therefore personifed as the striking employees, when in fact citizens from all over France head for the capital and march to public squares like Place de la République where a bronze statue of Marianne, the personification of France, is surrounded with three statues personifying liberty, equality, and fraternity, the values of the French Republic.
Parisians take French etiquette very seriously, good manners and common courtesy are a rule of thumb if you don’t want to be judged as uncouth. Formalities are a sign of respect and so is being polite. Not ingratiating yourself to these important customs can be construed as disrespectful, and is often the origin of many misunderstandings between locals and visitors. Parisians are uneasy around those who have a lack of reserve which is often perceived as snobbery. Don’t forget to say bonjour (hello), bonsoir (good evening), au revoir (bye), merci (thanks), s’il vous plait (please) accompanied with Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle (Sir, Mam, Miss). Lastly forget using the french word, tu (informally) use vous (to convey formality) which is expected when encountering any unknown Parisian under normal circumstances.
Anything outside the Périph’, a controlled-access dual-highway ring road in Paris, isn’t necessarily considered unchartered territory, as some may think. As soon as it’s le week-end (weekend), Parisians get ready to flee the capital by hopping on a bus, train or plane pour s’évader (to escape)! More and more Parisians have holiday homes where they go to withdraw from the urban rat race. Cities like Lille, Nice, Bordeaux, Nimes and Marseille have become Parisian’s back door to unwinding. Quaint picturesque cities just outside of Paris like Versailles, Saint Germain-En Laye, Maisons Laffitte and St-Nom-la-Brèteche offer a breath of fresh air to Parisians looking for an escape only a short RER (the suburban train in Paris) train ride away.