Paris. The city of lights, love… and Parisians.
Over the years, Paris has built up a glowing reputation, but its inhabitants less so! The Parisians have been stamped with a wide variety of stereotypes, some of which have an element of truth to them… but others are completely untrue! Keep reading for our subjective list of Parisian Truths and Myths!
Every Parisian owns – or has owned – a striped t-shirt. It’s considered a wardrobe staple. These striped shirts have their origins in the “Breton Stripe”, originally part of the French Navy uniform. But when Coco Chanel used the horizontal stripe in her 1917 fashion collection, the style shot to haute couture status and has remained consistently on-trend ever since.
Rude waiters do exist in Paris, and they are mostly to be found in touristic areas. Why? Partly due to culture clashes, being overworked, and low wages. The Town Hall is aware of the truth behind this stereotype, and has produced a leaflet for waiters, taxi drivers and hotel staff called “Do you speak Touriste?” designed to make tourists feel more at home by giving tips about how to serve the ten main nationalities that visit the city. I do have to stress, however, that there are far more polite waiters than rude ones in Paris.
Dog mess is a problem in Paris (although it’s improving slowly). Why? Because Paris isn’t designed for a city of dog lovers. There aren’t big, green leafy parks in every neighborhood, so people are forced to walk their pooch on the sidewalks, but don’t want to be watched scooping up by the people drinking coffee at the café opposite. Also, Parisians have a lot less respect for their sidewalks that in the UK or the US – with trash and cigarette butts regularly tossed by the side of the road.
I have to warn my English-speaking friends whenever they visit: the Parisians kiss on both cheeks for introductions and goodbyes, unless it’s man-to-man, or a professional situation, when a handshake is expected. Close male friends will also kiss on both cheeks. So, if you’re a woman, anticipate the double kiss and don’t cause an awkward situation by stabbing the person in their stomach with your outstretched hand. And definitely don’t just stand there: it’s considered standoffish and rude.
You’re going to be disappointed…But the average Parisian doesn’t eat frogs legs! I’ve actually never seen them in a restaurant. Snails, yes. But Kermit can breathe a sigh of relief, he’s not on the menu ce soir.
Do the Parisians really hate Americans? No! While they might complain about how annoying tourists are on the metro, or how the streets are full of coach buses, they are nevertheless absolutely fascinated with American culture. Don’t believe it? Just ask around about all the American diners and grocery stores that are popping up around Paris. You’re far more likely to hear “J’adore un bon cheesecake” (I love a good cheesecake) or “J’ai trop envie d’aller aux Etats-Unis” (I really want to visit the States) than “Je deteste les américains” (I hate Americans).
You’ll be even more relieved when I tell you that the average Parisian woman does know what a razor is. The theory that Parisiennes don’t shave apparently comes from the 1940s, when British and American troops were stationed in France, and ‘met’ the local ladies, who didn’t shave. Whether it was true or not, nowadays personal hygiene is just as important as in the US.