Paris: Not so perfect after all


Stazi Prost

Paris Picture
Courtesy of Stazi Prost
When my mom told me that we were going to Paris last spring, you could say I was ecstatic. How could I not be? I had heard about the city my whole life. I can remember watching countless movies with Paris as their setting, seeing numerous shirts with “Paris” plastered upon them and listening to many family friends talk about their honeymoons in Paris. Paris was the place to go for amazing sites, for wondrous food, for sweet romance. It was the place you had to see before you died.
Because of these moments, the city had been built up so long in my mind. Now, I would finally have the chance to experience the “City of Light” myself. And even after traveling to several other countries before — Egypt, Panama, Czech Republic — this vacation was supposed to top all. It was a city of perfection, and so my trip would be too.
Yet, March 23-27, 2012 were five days in h—. My high hopes slid slowly down the drain. It probably was the daydreams about their infamous buttery food (an obsession of mine) that made me forget to consider one important aspect of the trip: the French people.
Don’t think I’m stupid. I had heard multiple times before that French people are rude. If you don’t speak their language, you might run into some trouble. I have to admit, I did not take this comment as seriously as I should have. Come on, people go to Paris all the time. There are always people who don’t speak the language. Parisians should be used to this by now. Why learn French if someone is only going to be there for a week or two, or even less than that?
But then again, don’t think I had “clueless tourist” all over my clothes. I did some reading beforehand, enough to last me five days (or so I thought). Like for instance, I always made sure to say “Bonjour” or “Merci” whenever I walked in or out of a store because French people are a little obsessive about manners. Other useful words and phrases were “Excusez-moi” (Excuse me), Désolé (Sorry) and my favorite, “Parlez-vous anglais” (Do you speak English?)” Again, it was five days. I was leaning on these phrases, especially the last one, to get me through the trip. They had failed me terribly.
Just anywhere my mom and I went, we were greeted with scorn. Whether asking for a directions to a museum or a place where we could buy metro tickets, once I said my first English word, their gazes turned sour.
I just couldn’t understand it. We were not being disgraceful in any way. We said “Bonjour/Merci” whenever necessary, kept conversation quiet and dressed nicely all the time. We weren’t rocking the Crocs with socks, an American trademark to some people. We did not at all behave like the typical Americans French people viewed us to be – loud and obnoxious. Was it really such a big deal that we didn’t speak French? To be honest, when I think about it, my favorite part of the trip was probably spending several hours in the Tuileries Gardens just sitting, soaking up the warm sun, because there was absolutely no French interaction at all.
Don’t get me wrong. Even though this was a trip through Hades, that doesn’t mean Parisians aren’t going to see me again. While it is would be easy to just label this trip as horrible and be done with it, the French people were really just one aspect of it. One wrong thing should not keep me away from France entirely, especially if there still were many perks to the trip. The food was definitely mouth-watering, and the scenery was to die for — I would do anything to lay in the Tuileries Gardens once more. So it would be stupid to not experience these things again simply because I refused to learn more French, even if I still believe it is inappropriate. Coming back from this trip, I realized that you should not let one little thing be the face of your whole experience.
 By Stazi Prost
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