10 Things You Didn’t Know About Parisian Culture
Are you visiting Paris soon? Would you like to know more about Parisians? Can you identify a true Parisian? Instead of adding to the many lists named ‘top 10 things to do in Paris’, here is a different kind of article. I’m telling you 10 things you did not know about Parisians and Parisian culture.
The Parisian Politeness
Do you think the typical Parisian is rude? Actually he/she is not. Parisians only seem distant to most tourists because they have a special conception of politeness. For instance, we are more reserved than most Americans for example. Because we don’t have a culture of extroversion and we are not “instant BFFs” when we meet someone new.
Parisians only become friendly once they know the person they are talking to. That is why in Paris, you can’t just start talking to someone you don’t know. You have to greet the person first.
For instance, when you enter a shop in Paris or a waiting room, say hello to the salesman or the people present. Even better, say “bonjour”. If you don’t, a typical Parisian will immediately assume that you are impolite.
The Parisian Way Of Greeting
Now that you know one of the basics of Parisian politeness, you will be able to make Parisian friends. But how do you greet them? Well, you do not hug in Paris. Parisians do the “bise”.
Like every French person, a Parisian brushes his cheeks to the ones of the other person while imitating the sound of a kiss. But in Paris, you start with the right cheek, then the left. That’s it! That’s how we make the “bise”. You only make two kiss sounds. If you don’t feel close enough to the person, a formal handshake can also be enough.
Since it is the capital of France, you may think that Paris is full of stressed and busy persons only eating a sandwich for lunch. But that is not exactly true. Even though the Parisians are often busy, they take the time to have lunch and dinner.
Indeed, a French person normally takes 1 hours and 22 minutes a day on average to eat, which is more than in any European country. Plus, a Parisian generally takes the time to sit down at least once a day to have lunch or dinner. Don’t underestimate the importance of this aspect of Parisian culture!
Walking In Paris
When you think of Paris, one of the first things that come to mind is a huge metropolis. No one doubts the size of the French capital and yet Paris is not that big.
Unlike important American cities, Paris has limits that cannot be changed. Only 2,2 millions people live in the city itself, and the land area is only 105,4 km2 (41 sq mil). As a comparison, in New York, the land area is 744 km2 (302 sq mil), almost 7 times bigger!
Walking from the north to the south of Paris only takes 2 hours! This is why Parisians walk a lot to get from one point to the other; everything is a few minutes walk away!
One of the Parisian’s favourite activities is “flâner à Paris”. It means to stroll in Paris; you experience the city by walking around with friends, enjoying nice viewpoints and window-shopping.
Getting Around In Paris
Any true Parisian knows that there are too many cars in Paris to find a parking spot and not enough taxi to find one quickly. This is why we are subway experts. The Parisian metro has a unique density in the world; nothing is more than 500 yards away from a metro station! It’s cheaper than a cab and often faster.
In Paris, we all have our ‘Pass Navigo’ to take the metro easily. It’s faster and easier for the ticket inspectors. If you plan to stay in Paris for more than a month, I strongly advise that you buy one!
If you don’t want to be under ground, you can also take a bike. The Velib system allows the Parisians to get a bike at any time, everywhere in Paris. As I mentioned before, Paris is not that big, this is why a bike is a good solution to get around in Paris. But it’s harder for tourists not to get lost on a bike!
Enjoying Paris In The Summer
It is said that Paris is empty during the summer because Parisians prefer to enjoy the sun outside of the city. Of course we like to get out of our apartments for vacations, but we also have our little tricks to enjoy Paris under the sun.
When it gets sunny and hot, Parisians like to sit on the grass of the Luxembourg garden, the Place des Vosges or the Invalids. They spend their evenings drinking beers or wine, having a picnic in one of those gardens or in the Champs de Mars, just in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Another very popular way to enjoy the nice weather in Paris is to spend the night on the Seine River Banks with friends. The air is refreshing when you are near the water and the view is always beautiful. Be careful though, Parisians know where the River Banks are safe and where you shouldn’t go, ask any of them, if this is your preferred way of enjoying the city.
Shopping In Paris
When you think about Paris, you probably immediately think about the Champs-Elysees or the Rue de la Paix when it comes to shopping. But I don’t know any Parisian who goes shopping in the Champs-Elysees. It’s currently overrun with global chain stores and movie multiplexes.
To shop in Paris, everyone has their own addresses and secret places. For instance, fashion lovers will go to the Marais neighborhood –in the third district- on the Rue des Franc-Bourgeois where you have a lot of clothes shops. If you prefer luxury brands, go to the Avenue Montaigne or the Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
For a different atmosphere, look for the covered passage built in the 19th century. These are the first “malls” of Paris and it is where you can find original French brands.
Do You Know How To Cross Roads The Parisian Way?
You should know that pedestrian traffic lights and pedestrian walkways are useless to Parisians. Crossing the Parisian way is “any time, any place”.
A true Parisian is always too busy or too late to wait for the light to turn green. Plus, you often don’t have a light for the pedestrians so you just have to stand up for yourself if you want to cross! Be careful with that though; perhaps it’s wiser not to follow Parisian culture in this case but to go by the rules when you’re crossing a street in Paris instead. This will always be safer!
Fashion In Paris
No, you don’t have to wear a beret in Paris! But you do have to be elegant if you want to fit in the capital of fashion. If you don’t want to be treated like a tourist, don’t commit any fashion Faux Pas. In Paris, we never dress less than business casual. It is not about dressing to the nines but about mastering the art of a clean and coordinated look.
The average look is simple, tidy, black or grey, and everything must fit the way it should.
Most Parisians never went to the top of the Eiffel Tower
The first thing that comes into mind when you talk about Paris is the Eiffel Tower. Of course most Parisians enjoy it, but only as something to watch from the distance. It’s better to enjoy a view of the Eiffel tower than a view from it.
To be honest, Parisians rarely go visit the Iron Lady. We never go to the top of it! The queue is very long and we prefer to enjoy a view of it than a view from it, since it’s the defining feature of the Paris skyline.
Nevertheless, you will definitely meet many Parisians at Champs de Mars enjoying the weather!
My article about 10 things you didn’t know about Parisian culture is over. So now, you actually know 10 things about Paris culture! The truth is there is so many more things to discover. But the best way to learn about our culture is by hanging out with us! You will understand so much more about our lifestyle and customs, so I hope we will be seeing you in Paris very soon!