I have said it before and I will say it again. People are very friendly here in the south! I have got in the habit here of greeting people when I walk in to a shop or a lobby with a simple “Bonjour/soir madame/monsieur.” But my favorite is the multiple person greeting, “messieurs-dames“, that I am still trying to perfect.
So, what about Paris? We just spent a few days in this beautiful city but to get a really good picture, I think we would have had to stay longer than just four days. I did, however, observe less of the “niceties” that I would normally see in the south. In Paris, though, one must still greet shopkeepers in the same manor as French etiquette demands. To skip this step is considered rude. That being said, I also want to add that we ran in to some very nice Parisians! In the Métro, a twenty-somthing woman, seeing my niece struggle with her suitcase down the stairs, ran up behind her and grabbed a handle. She helped her guide her cumbersome suitcase all the way down the steps à l’Amélie. Another time, we were looking at our “bible”, Paris par Arrondissement, on a street corner near the Eiffel Tower and an older gentleman asked if we needed help. He then insisted on guiding us to the Métro stop, himself. These were the most dramatic strokes of friendliness but everywhere we went in Paris we were greeted warmly.
So, did we just luck out and run in to the right people at the right time? Many Americans return from Paris with the common view that Parisians are rude, unfriendly or even anti-American. Is this just a result of a series of cultural misunderstandings? Perhaps I need to return to Paris to do some more empirical research on the subject.