Manners of Paris

a) Standing on line – Sad to say, not all Parisians accept the idea that a line is a place where one person stands behind another in order of arrival. I frequently recognize French travelers at the airport because they blithely just walk in front of you whenever the opportunity presents itself. And it may be the same at the cinema. My feeling is to just let it go. What I and many Americans find harder to deal with is the French concept of spatial relations. We all have an invisible, but very real intimacy circle; the French dimensions are much smaller than the American ones. The result is that people will be really close to you, and, for them, this is normal. They do not realize that they are in your private space. Just be forewarned.

b) Hello, Good-bye and Thank You – liberal use of these words can only lead to good things. As I say in the Speaking French section below (n°44), preface a question by Bonjour Madame or Bonjour Monsieur. Smile. I really do insist on that. When the question is answered, or the service performed, say thank you (Merci). If you were a young bourgeois French child, your mother would say Merci QUI, which means you should have said Merci, MADAME or Merci, MONSIEUR. However, I will not burden you with this requirement. As you depart, say Au revoir, Madame/Monsieur.

c) Noise – I am always amazed at how QUIET French parks are, at how muted the noise seems to be. So here comes a Glaring Generalization: Americans In General tend to be more exuberant, more outgoing, and just plain louder than the French. My philosophy is that it is better not to attract attention; thus, when in a group, try Indoor Voice even when out of doors. And when in restaurants pay attention to your decibel level. I am not saying whisper, I’m just saying be aware and do what’s necessary to blend in.

Manners of Paris Photo Gallery

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