Parisians have quite the reputation around the world and sure enough, when we booked our flight to France, the warnings started coming in…
Don’t let them think you’re from the UK – be sure to tell them you’re Kiwis.
Start with as much French as you can – they won’t like if it you speak in English.
Could the French really be as closed-off as we’d been lead to believe?
With our bags packed and my basic-high-school-level French almost certainly about to let me down, we set out to find out.
Our first interactions with locals came as soon as we left the airport. Straight off an early morning flight and look anything but fresh, we found our way onto the train and started studying the map above the door to figure out how many stations would pass before we were to get off.
Imagine our surprise when two ladies jumped straight into our conversation to help us. Not only were they keen to share information with us but they suggested we follow them off the train as we’d be sharing the same stop.
Where was this Parisian attitude we’d heard so much about?
Surely it was on the way – we’d just struck it lucky?
Throughout the day we happily meandered through Paris, making purchases in shops and navigating the metro without any worries but before it was time to head to a specific spot for a booking we’d made. Needing to be in a certain place, at a certain time, in a city we’re unfamiliar with whilst speaking another language? Surely a recipe for disaster, right?
Lost and looking for the metro, we asked two burly policemen to point us in the right direction and before we knew it they were complimenting me on my French (which of course couldn’t be further from the truth) and chatting to us about where we were from.
Maybe it was that we led with French but a simple Excusez-moi, bonjour was all it took.
Headed in the right direction, we found our way to the home of Jean Yves to learn how to whip up a batch of world-class macarons. Jean Yves opens his kitchen to locals and travellers alike, teaching them the tricks of the trade and who better to learn from than the winner of Masterchef France?!
Throughout our visit, Jean Yves was patient, kind and very generous with his knowledge – everything you’d hope for but potentially not what we’d been told to expect of a Parisian.
By now, we were beginning to think we’d got it all wrong about the French and for the remainder of the trip, that’s exactly what we found to be the case.
Our encounters were, for the most part, very welcoming and we experienced no shortage of locals willing to converse with us in English… to the point where I found myself almost a little disappointed not to practice my French more!
The icing on the cake though?
As we approached the Eiffel Tower on a sunny summer’s day we realised we wouldn’t last long outside without our trusty sunscreen – unfortunately though, we’d left it back in Abu Dhabi and had struggled to find any earlier in the day. We made one last-ditch effort to track some down and approached a vendor to see if he had any available for purchase.
Though he didn’t, you can imagine our surprise when he pulled two tubes out from behind the counter, offering up both face and body cream at absolutely no charge. No he couldn’t sell us any but he was more than happy to ensure we were taken care of.
I don’t think I’ve been that well looked after anywhere in the world!
Of course we came across people that were less than pleasant but that’s life. You’ll always encounter people having bad days or those that would rather keep to themselves than help – it’s certainly not something specific to Paris.
I assume this stereotype must be founded on the back of genuine experience but we personally found it to be anything but the case!
Though the French we encountered were incredibly helpful, it’s always nice to try your hand at the local language whilst travelling. Not only do they appreciate it but it’s all a part of the experience.
The following basic phrases should get you started on your trip to Paris, but remember, if you do your best and approach your interactions with the right attitude, the Parisians really will look after you!
Hello/Good day – Bonjour
Good evening – Bonsoir
How are you? (How’s it going?) – Comment ça va?
Things are going well – Ça va bien
My name is Sarah – Je m’appelle Sarah
And you? – Et Tu?
Please – S’il vous plait
Thank you – Merci
Thank you very much – Merci beaucoup
Excuse me – Excusez-moi
Sorry – Pardon
In English? – En anglais? Or even better, en anglais s’il vous plait?
Do you speak English? – Parlez vous anglais?
Goodbye – Au revoir
With some basic French under your belt and a great big smile, we really do hope you’ll have the same experience that we did during our first visit to Paris.
Though it was a city that wasn’t top of either of our European wish-lists, we came away having had a ball in the City of Love and have a completely new appreciation for the French.
Isn’t it fabulous when expectations are blown out of the water?
Have you visited Paris? If so, what was your experience of interacting with the French? We’d love to hear from you!
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Are you looking for an amazing place to stay whilst you visit Paris?
We absolutely fell in love with Adèle & Jules, finding the staff to be the epitome of the welcoming Parisians we met elsewhere. We couldn’t recommend them enough!
If your budget won’t quite stretch to that, Le Village Hostel is a comfortable option in an energetic, lovely part of town – great value for money!