Is Now the Time to Visit Paris?

Oh dear me, it seems a Paris icon might be slowly disappearing into that lovely sunset.  But what will we do without rude waiter stories from our visit to Paris?

Well, there’s still this…

That right there.  THAT is why we went to Paris.  Also - croissants.
That right there. THAT is why we went to Paris. Also – croissants.

The rudeness of the French, or more accurately the Parisians, has become legendary among travelers.  Frequent visitors have no shortage of stories to tell (and remind me sometime to tell you about the lady who yelled at us during rush hour on the metro) and first time visitors scan these stories with trepidation, wondering what their first encounter will bring.  When a rude encounter does materialize, it is almost a badge of honor.  At the very least a person should have a t-shirt to commemorate the moment.  You know you’ve become a seasoned traveler when you have your own rude Parisian story.

So how true is the hype?

Before I hitched my kids off to Paris I asked a few people I knew who lived there what we could expect.  The very first thing off the list was the rudeness of Parisians.

“It’s not rude, really,” she said.  “It’s just that they think we’re rude because we don’t say hello.”

“I’m sorry, what?  Like, you mean to the bus driver on the crowded bus?”

“Yes.  Also the person behind the counter with the long lines, the person selling newspapers, and the person you buy your metro ticket from.  You say hello to everyone.  EVERY TIME.”

My friend stressed this bit of etiquette to me several times, so I decided to take her at her word.  In fact, I used my primary travel weapon – the small blond girl who ended up decked out in an artfully jaunty pink beret.  She had been studying French before we left, and although it was assumed that I would take primary point in any French conversations, her accent was much more cute than mine.

The jauntiness in this picture is just so overpowering.
The jauntiness in this picture is just so overpowering.

Sure enough, upon the discovery of a lovely little bakery near our rented flat (which backed up on Pere LeChaise Cemetery), we made it a morning ritual to get freshly baked goods every day for breakfast.

How delightfully French!

But I digress.  So how did the cute tones of a little evil blond in a pink beret go over?

Reasons to love France #7986 - palmiers.
Reasons to love France #7986 – palmiers.

It went over free palmier well.   Every morning.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t encounter some doozies of humanity while in Paris – but we encounter those everywhere.  We had a bus driver in Cairo tell us, as we boarded the bus to the airport, “And don’t forget you will have to tip me!”

Really?  Well then.  Thanks for the heads up.

I won’t defend Parisians to the death, like several others I’ve seen declare in online forums about rudeness.  However, a little fairness is in order.  Paris is one of the top tourist destination cities in the world, and tourists – no matter how much they put into the economy – can get annoying.  There’s only so many times per day a person can listen to someone ask agitatedly for directions in a language you don’t speak before the sympathy cup begins to run quite dry.

And if you’re brought up to understand that all polite conversations begin with a hello, people who believe polite conversations begin as quickly as possibly will seem impossibly rude.

On the other hand, when you hit number one on the most hated airport in the world list and passengers describe flying through as, “like being in custody,” maybe there is a bit of work to be done.

Whatever the case may be – Paris should still be high on any list of places to visit.  Just go prepared.