I go to Paris because I love the people and I want to immerse myself in the Parisian lifestyle.
Being a New Zealander, that is a big ask (never forget the Rainbow Warrior) – but each time I have been to Paris, I have fallen deeper and deeper in love with the Parisians I have met – they are charming, intelligent and endearing people.
They are complex– sometimes appearing arrogant, they are actually very polite and sometimes shy, living by a set of standards which may be unachievable if you don’t understand them. What they like the most is when you show any kind of interest in their culture – if you don’t, you could be met with a very gallic snub. Even if your accent is abominable, the very act of trying to have a grasp on the French language is important. And rudeness is not acceptable in any form – Parisians, and French people on the whole have a very heightened sense of respectfulness.
On my very first trip to Paris I stayed in a quirky family-run pension in the 5th. The manager was an eccentric Frenchman who spoke constantly to all his guests, and he happily conversed with me, even though my spoken French was terrible. I was so charmed by him, I subsequently stayed there a number of times. However, when I joined my partner in Paris a few years later we decided to lease an apartment instead. I remember feeling guilty that I was not still supporting him and his pension, however I was stunned and flattered when he recognised me in the Boulevard Saint-Germain one afternoon and chatted away merrily as if we were old friends.
The cook in the same pension was a steel faced no-nonsense woman from regional France who didn’t speak any English, and she had very strict rules about who could visit her kitchen, and when (guests had a fridge they could store snacks in, and could use the stove to cook their meal, as long as she had finished for the day). She was forever growling at my family members when they crept down there outside of the allotted times to grab their soy milk for breakfast. But when I was leaving Paris, and went into her kitchen with a bunch of flowers to tell her how much I would miss the pension, she grabbed me, gave me a huge hug, kissed me on both cheeks and said, with a big smile, “Merci, Madame!”
Next time you are in Paris, give it a try – whether it be the local Chestnut Seller outside Luxemburg Gardens, a French Egyptian restaurant owner who is keen to know more about you, or the chic owner of an apartment laden with exquisite and original art – Parisians are passionate, enchanting and delightful people – the best part of the experience.