Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Love Paris, Not the Parisians

How can you not be amazed at such a beautiful city?

By talking to the locals, that's how.

Well, to be fair, it's not all bad. Several of the French people we interacted with were quite helpful, polite and genuine. It's the other 99% of them that weren't.

Example 1 - The Ring Trick Scam Artist

The days leading up to our arrival in Paris, my father explained a common scam to my mother and me. It basically goes like this. You'll stop on the street to tie your shoelace, look on your map, or checking your cell phone. A man will walk by you and suddenly stop and find a golden ring on the ground near you. He will start to get excited about the small fortune he's found. He asks around to see if anyone's lost a ring (they haven't) and then asks you to examine it verify it's worth (it has none). But it's heavy and feels like gold. Then comes the con.

He says that he's an illegal immigrant in France and cannot possibly explain how he could have come across a gold ring without raising suspicion. He then asks if you would be willing to take it and sell it. He asks for a small amount of cash in return, much less than the probable value of the ring. Sounds like a great deal, huh? Maybe if this were feudal France and people were accustomed to trade gold for goods and services, but the only gold I know is my father's Amex card.

Well, no sooner than we arrive on our first day, my mother stops on a street corner to readjust some extra diapers in my stroller, when we see a suspicious man hovering around us. My father was looking at my mother and me as the man stopped 3 feet away from us and knelt down.

He put his hand on the ground and suddenly a gold ring appeared between his dirty fat fingers. My father started to laugh and told my mother, "Look, it's the gold ring trick!" to which the man quickly slid the ring back into this palm and went away without even attempting to talk to us. Shame, because my father really wanted to take a photo of him for this blog post.

Example 2 - The Smoker

We had just finished spending time in the Louvre checking out my favorite artists, when we wanted to get some food/coffee before we went back to the hotel to rest. It was mid/late afternoon when we found a nice cafe not too far from the museum that had a great selection of well priced sandwiches including one with pate that my mother really wanted to try. We sat down at one of the open outside tables next to an older couple drinking their coffee and smoking a cigar.

It began to rain a bit, so everyone shifted their tables backwards under the cover, causing the tables to get a bit closer together, including the older man next to us. By now, we were ready to order and the waiter was no where to be seen. I was getting a little impatient at the deliberate pace of the French waiter, so I started to make a fuss as 19 month olds are prone to do. The elderly man's face changed quickly as he clearly had no patience for my Uzbek/Russian-Korean method of communication.

He began to take deeper breaths of his cigar and blow the smoke directly in our direction. My parents turned around with a shocked/frustrated expression to which he replied with his Parisian nonchalance as if he had done nothing wrong and continued to smoke his cigar. We could have said something to him, but just decided to leave and find somewhere else to eat (as he probably hoped we would).

Example 3 - The Denial Waitress

After this pleasant scene, we continued walking around the 1st Arrondissement in search of a small cafe where we could have a small snack without paying €60 ($80 USD). We came across a little plaza with about 7 different restaurants all next to one another and decided to look at the menus. My mother was now in the mood for a sandwich, and the one French bistro that had sandwiches looked promising....

...until my father came in with me in my stroller. Suddenly, all the eyes in the restaurant turned to us like we just walked into a Skinhead Rally. One of the women sitting and eating at the table stopped us from entering. She looked down at me in my stroller and told us, "The kitchen was closed, sorry."

I could see other people there eating away, so we asked again and received the same curt reply, "Sorry, closed." So we left and went back to our hotel where they'd at least pretend to like us.

Example 4 - The Shocked Waitress

Another evening, we were in search of a bistro where my mother could get a good bowl of French onion soup. We passed up a few Japanese ramen restaurants that looked very promising and relatively well-priced, but we were in search of from FOS. We found a brasserie with a bunch of other people eating outside. Given the smoker fiasco, we decided not to take any chances and looked for seats inside.

We walked in and found a table in the back corner where my occasional rants and noises wouldn't cause too much disruption. It was a typical table along the wall, with one side with booth seating and the other with pull out chairs.
Now, something about me that you should know is that I really like sitting in my stroller. It's not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it keeps me in place and lets me be close to the table without being able to reach and grab (i.e. drop/spill/break) things. Sometimes, I'll let my parents put me in a high chair, but there's nothing better than having back support while you sit. And plus, I love being able to lean back and nap whenever I feel like it (as I'm sure you adults would agree).
So as we started to sit, the waitress started to be quite adamant that I be placed on my mother's lap in the booth. My parents explained that we'd all prefer that I sit in the stroller on the outside of the table. The waitress gasped, "But why?"

"She's better off here in the stroller, right here."

"But why? She should sit inside."

"No, it's OK, she's fine here."

"Really?!?!" That was followed by some hand gestures about how a baby should sit on the mother's lap at a restaurant.

This inane back and forth with her continued and repeated itself for another 3-4 cycles. For some reason, she just wouldn't give up. But finally she relented and went away frustrated as if we just asked to be served dog food (which wasn't too far off from the actual food we were served). Apparently, people came here to drink, but rarely to eat. Lesson learned.

Example 5 - The Guard Dog Hostess

The other day, we arrived back to our hotel mid afternoon and thought it might be nice to have a coffee in the Park Hyatt's atrium courtyard where other couples and families were having coffee, tea or wine.

My father (dressed as you can see here in the photo) proceeded to walk through the front doors, down the lobby hallway and towards the atrium doors when the Park Hyatt hostess started tailing him.

"Sir, Sir. Can I help you, sir?"

"Hi, no thank you. I'm fine."

"Sir, is there something you're looking for?"

"I just want to look over there. Maybe have a coffee."


"You know I'm a guest at the hotel here."

"May I have your room number, sir?"

"It's 326."

"Oh, right this way, sir."


So now my father and mother were both convinced that the sample set of French people we met were quite horrible and possibly indicative of the general French culture towards all tourists (because we don't really look "American"). But I was set on proving to my parents that there were some good friendly French people in this beautiful city.

So the following day, I went up to various other people in the hopes of charming them and getting some reciprocal friendliness. And finally, I found a nice group sitting in the park besides the Eiffel Tower who really took a liking to me and welcomed me into their little picnic.

Unfortunately for my argument, they were all English.


  1. I have to agree with you. I love Paris the city; some of the people and their attitude, not so much.

  2. I have to say that I agree with you, on the whole Parisians are not friendly at all. You were treated horribly, so sorry! I would raise hell with Hyatt.

  3. Well, we tried not to let it bother us too much and detract from our enjoyment of the city itself. But let's just say we're ready to get back to NYC.