Friday, November 16, 2012

An American Girl in Paris

(view from the Pont Alexander III bridge)

While we were traveling, whenever Angelina and I told people we were going to spend a month in Paris, we were always guaranteed to get one of two reactions:

1) Oh fuck, have you seen the movie Taken?

2) Why do you want to live there?! Parisians are the worst people ever!

First of all, I stopped counting how many people asked the first question because we got it so often. Answer: Yes, I have seen Taken, it's one of my favorite movies, and I want to marry Liam Neeson (who doesn't love a sensitive man who can also kick ass?) But strangely, being taken by Albanian sex traffickers was not my top concern when coming over here. I was really afraid that my experience would be ruined because of all of the horrible things I'd heard about Parisians! In fact, someone told me that Sarkozy (ex-president of France) once gave a public announcement to the people of Paris telling them they had to start being nicer because it was harming tourism and the French economy. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's ridiculous none the less.

Well, having been in Paris for two weeks now, I have noticed certain traits and commonalities amongst Parisians. Some are negative, some are positive, and most make me laugh. First and foremost, the truest stereotype is that Parisians do NOT like to speak English. The fact that we live in a snooty residential neighborhood doesn't help that fact, but even when we go over to the touristy areas its mostly French thats spoken. Thankfully, Angelina and I both know enough French to get around (and I'm pleased to say its getting better every day!) but there are still some assholes who get upset when I can't speak fluently with them. For instance, when Angelina and I first arrived at the airport, we immediately went to go get metro passes. We went up to the desk, asked the man working if he spoke English, he said he spoke a little and then proceeded to help us. Then, randomly, half way through the transaction, he says "do you speak French?" We tell him that we speak a little, and he asked (in French) why we were visiting France if we don't speak French and that no one should come to France without knowing French. Uhhhh...what?!? Bro you work at a fucking AIRPORT! He was definitely the biggest douche lord we've encountered in that aspect.

(in front of the L'Arc du Triumphe)

(being classy on the Champs Élysées)

Second, ( I'm not sure if this is a well-known stereotype or not) Parisians hate noise. Speaking loudly on the metro or laughing too hard in a restaurant will warrant some dirty looks. A perfect example of this is our ridiculous downstairs neighbors. They HATE us because "we laugh and walk around too much" - Seriously? Welcome to living in an apartment complex. But Angelina and I are not complete assholes, so we do try to please them. We made an agreement that we would be quiet between 11pm and 8am. However, that apparently isn't enough quiet time for them - last Monday at about 1:30pm we were watching a video on YouTube, laughing at it, and we get them banging on our floor (their cieling) yelling "SILENCE!!!"

IT IS 1:30 ON A MONDAY. The garbage truck outside is making more noise than us! Shouldn't you be at work or something??!!!?

(Having a French last name = seeing it everywhere in Paris. Normally when I see it it's spelt with one L, but this little flower shop is an exception.)

And finally, the French do not smile. They just don't. And if you smile at them, they either look uncomfortable or confused. Even when I see two people flirting, there are no smiles exchanged. Example: I was sitting on the steps of the Sacre Coeur when I spotted a rather good looking French guy. After checking him out for a good ten seconds, he turns and sees me looking at him (damnit! I've been caught.) I turn away quickly, and when I look back I see him looking at me (well hellooooo there sir) so I smile at him. He looks away (eh fuck you you're not that hot anyway) but then quickly looks back at me and winks at me with a COMPLETELY straight face. No smile. I don't know if you've ever seen someone wink with a straight face but it's kind of terrifying, and also hilarious. I couldn't help but laugh!

(shitty photo of the inside of Notre Dame)

All of that being said, some stereotypes I haven't found to be true. Gypsies, for instance - yes, they're everywhere, but I haven't found them as persistent or as aggressive as I had heard. An interesting moment for me was when I was walking through a metro station and got stopped by a woman who I immediately assumed was a gypsy. She starts speaking to me in French, and says to me something along the lines of "You are very beautiful, you will find a nice man who appreciates your beauty" - most random compliment ever. I figured she was trying to charm me as a distraction in order to work her crazy gypsy magic stealing powers. So I just said thank you and made sure I held my bag tightly. Then she told me she hopes I have a nice day, and walked away. She didn't step close enough to me at any point to make me feel threatened or anything. I guess she was just a friendly lady? Either way it made me realize that I need to stop being a paranoid traveler and assuming that everyone I see is a gypsy trying to steal my shit.

Overall I have to say that despite the strange quirks and unfriendliness of Parisians, I absolutely love Paris. If I were fluent in French, I would definitely move here. I think it may actually be my favorite place I've ever been. To be honest I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm definitely planning on soaking up every moment of the rest of my visit.

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