March 2008


French, Kissing.

I’m now in Paris for a few days—the first time I have ever spent more than 22 hours in the city.

I took the RER down from CDG to Paris; after exiting the train and going up the stairs I passed a young couple snogging in the station. A closer couple with clothing you could not imagine. In this city of love, they have not been the only couple I’ve witnessed snogging.

It seems somewhat stereotypical to say that the French kiss a lot, that they are the most romantic people on the planet, but it seems so true after a brief city exploration.

The locals fulfill other French stereotypes perfectly: the waitress at the coffee shop ignored me when I wanted to pay the bill (for a moment I thought I was somewhere in East Germany); the hotel is defensive about the fact the room smells of cigarette smoke (“We are a non-smoking hotel,” the man says. The cigarette butt under my bed suggests that other customers haven’t complied and how the maid didn’t notice the stench is beyond me); and, errr… I cannot think of a third stereotype to complain about. However, the hotel charges for WiFi and proudly announces this with an advert in the elevator. The sign has accurate graffiti written next to the pricing: “trop cher”. Fortunately I am leeching off of somebody else’s signal for free.

Last night I took the Montmartre Free Tour—a two hour exploration past the Moulin Rouge, the Café des Deux Moulins, Sacré Cœur, and other Paris sites. Although the weather was cool, and the crowd somewhat random, there were an astounding four people with Denver connections, including one guy who teaches English for a living in Seville (cute, I might add). It was a pleasant way to knock off an evening and see a part of town that I might not have otherwise had time to see.

Institut du Monde ArabeToday has been more museum oriented: the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Musee Jacquemart Andre. I wandered through the Galeries Lafayette and into Printemps and around town. Once my feet started complaining, I consulted a bus map and discovered I could take a bus all the way from where I happened to be back to my hotel: a lucky discovery.

I found a grocery store where I picked up a few things: principally stuff to drink; and in the odd and somewhat amusing category, in addition to providing the total in Euros, the conversion rate between French Francs and Euros was listed (“1 Euro = 6.55957 Frs”) with a lot more accuracy than is probably needed for day-to-day transactions, along with the grand total: in my case 10.50€ was, once upon a time, 68.88F. I’ve not seen the old currency listed in Belgium, The Netherlands, or Germany—any time recently that I can remember. I’ve been informed that such price conversions show up in other places, like credit card receipts.

It reminded me that once, when I flew into Brussels on my way to Rotterdam, I needed to buy a train ticket. It was in the pre-physical Euro days. When I bought the train ticket, I remember thinking it was extraordinarily expensive—the price was in Belgian Francs. However, much to my relief, the price in Euros was also listed, and although I didn’t know the exact exchange rate, I knew that 21€ was not unreasonable for the journey.

I wonder how many Frenchmen still calculate prices in Euros though…

7 comments to French, Kissing.

  • Disenchanted

    Ah, I am jealous. Paris in the spring, people snogging on the corners. You know, when we were in Mexico City, I saw a ton of folks making out in the park. Our Fearless Leader said that they were probably all men meeting up with their mistresses. LOL!

  • J

    I love Paris, and after having lived in Germany for so long I didn’t find Parisians rude at all. Actully, I found them quite friendly compared to Germans.

    Enjoy – it’s a great city.

  • I believe it’s the law that the prices must be posted in francs as well as euros.

    On the museum front, don’t miss the D’Orsay if you can manage it, even if only to see the building (an old train station).

    I spent about 8 weeks in Paris in 2006 and didn’t fine Parisians rude. Mostly they reminded me of New Yorkers. But quieter.

  • Despite the fact that Paris is quite romantic I do agree that some of them are quite rude. I encountered my share of rude Parisians. I told them back that they should not act like total bitches especially with a customer. I even added where’s the effing service here?

  • @disenchanted: I think we both had good trips.

    @J: I enjoyed my few days in the city, it was nice–and i usually find stereotypes are not as true as they might be.

    @John: I wonder how long the Francs must continue to be displayed… the currency is so long gone that it should be a distant memory. If it were Slovenia, I would understand the showing of the Euro and the Tollar since the tollar just went away.

    @Chase: I only was ignored, not treated rudely, at the café.

  • I have to admit, after spending some time in Paris, when I went out to eat in Houston I found the overly friendly servers a bit cloying. It’s sort of nice to be left along as long as you want to read, watch people, etc. in a cafe.

    What feels “rude” is often just “different.” A great book for Americans going to France is “French or Foe.” It’s written by an American business consultant who helps American expats in France adjust to the culture; much of it is about business culture, but there are great tips on daily life, too. And it’s funny.

    If not for that book, I’d never have been granted the privilege of a plastic bag to take my bread home in at the bakery in the town outside of Paris where we were staying.

  • @John: I agree that its nice to be left alone, and we were left alone, even though the waitress saw, quite plainly, that we wanted to pay. The money was on the table. I saw her look at it and then proceed to make a number of other stops, including multiple repeat trips past our table–that suddenly falls into the category of bad service.

    Most of the time cultural differences don’t come off as rude to me–I’ve often pondered whether its better to have the over attentive American waiter demanding money from me as soon as I’ve taken my last bite, or the East German waiter who I have to hunt for, and then beg for the check…. It can take a long time to pay in East Germany…