“Parisians are just TOO NICE!” my boyfriend exclaimed, and I had to agree, as we once again managed to pull ourselves away from the garrulous Francophones and return to our daily quest for fresh provisions. Living on a tiny pedestrianized street on the left bank was exciting, moving, and… slow going. Every time I left my half-a-shoebox apartment I conversed with Francois, the waiter next door who seemed to live at his cafe. A few steps down I would “bonjour messieurs” with the staff of the Indian restaurant, inquiring about today’s football game.
Then there was Guillermo, who whispered to me in front of his fake leather purse shop that he was the second-greatest sunglasses designer in all of Italy. Passing by was Madame Bruyere, and an invitation to the night’s theatre; I sung jovial “Kalispera”s at the Greek sandwich stand as my dog was fed long strands of juicy gyro meat. And there, at the end of the street, was Vulcan- the Turkish student of maritime law who, more often than not, insisted that I sit and share wine and English slang at the tables of his brother’s restaurant. It rarely took less than an hour to reach the Place Monge street market, only two blocks away.
You might think this geniality was due to a long history with the residents of the Mouffetard quarter (I had moved in three months prior) or perhaps our perfect French speaking abilities (Joe was known to proclaim that our dog was his father) or even the wiener dog Louis XIV himself (okay, this did win some points with the dog-loving French). But overall, my relationships with the Parisians was a product of the outright niceness of the Parisians. Whether natives like the small stepping Madames, or implants like the restaurateurs, over and over I found the inhabitants of Paris to be helpful, polite, and well, a little too nice.
Still, in almost every travel guide I read the authors warn of the legendary rudeness that travelers will encounter in Paris; a caution to brace yourself for the snobbery and snottiness that is just as much a part of Parisian culture as the aperitif. Sadly, if you come to Paris expecting a stubborn concierge or a discourteous waiter, not doubt that’s what you’ll find. It’s human nature to want to confirm our expectations and prove ourselves right. But I’m telling you, the French are not churlish horrors, and they love America, contrary to what some media outlets might have you believe. Parisians are eager to hear your views of the world and respectfully share their own. So be warned, when in Paris, watch out- for you too may be trapped on the sidewalk, your goals for the day put to the side yet again, conversing for hours with the Parisians. They’re just too nice.