I’m just going to come right out and say it.
Being too nice in Paris (and maybe throughout France, depending on where exactly you are) is recipe for disappointment.
In America, we are brought up, especially as women, to be nice above all else. We think that by being liked by everyone is a good thing – a thing that we should strive for. Currently, I’m trying to debunk that expectation in my own life.
By taking cues from the French, who genuinely don’t care if any given person likes them or not, I try to live my life on my own terms. I definitely think it’s good to be polite and a kind person, but I won’t go out of my way to placate someone who is insistent on being rude or mean.
When discussing Paris, a lot (a lot…) of American friends and strangers ask me that same question in that same irritating, almost whispering and gossiping tone:
But, aren’t the French so…rude?
And I just look at them. Like, hello? I live in Newport Beach, California. So this is essentially Snob Heaven. Then I calmly, yet pointedly, explain to them the fact that there are rude people everywhere in the world, even in (…GASP) America! That being said, I’ve met more hospitable, warm, and wonderful humans in France than I can even name off the top of my head.
But that is exactly where the stereotype comes from. Americans go to Paris expecting to use their same sweet and slightly artificial huge smiles in order to receive reciprocated nods and smiles of approval. But they don’t. Because the French were brought up (double GASP) differently than we were.
They won’t go around giving just anyone their warm smiles and approving nods, no. You’ve got to earn that. And to do that, you can’t be hung up on being simply nice. You have to be charming. Witty. Try speaking French! And then, when you finally (finally!) get that glowing smile, it will be that much sweeter. Because you’ve earned it.
Compare it to the affection of a dog (American) vs. the affection of a cat (French). Dogs love everyone. It’s a given. But cats, they are selective. But when they show their affection, you’re in. For good.