|Subject: Re: Paris and the French|
I had my first ever trip to Paris in 2001 and I still get a buzz thinking about it - I'd waited forever for that trip too!
I had a few days in Paris solo, and every so often if I got lost, needed directions, etc, I'd pick a person to ask, smile, and start with Bonjour or Pardon or Excusez Moi (pardon the spelling). If they paused and smiled in return I would ask if they spoke English - usually the reply was just a little but they all seemed to speak it beautifully and certainly didn't mind me asking them at all seeing as I had made the effort to greet and question them in their own language.
France was the number 1 country for tourists not so long ago (and it may well still be), and I think the theory of the French are nasty and aloof is a myth. Every single one of them that I met was not just polite and courteous, but friendly and helpful (except the customs duty officer and that's another story). People were stopping on the street if I was looking at my map, to ask me if I needed any help.
As for dressing like a tourist as someone else mentioned, I must have blended in OK as I actually had a tourist stop me and ask in stilted French just like mine if I spoke English!
Later in my trip I had another couple of days in Paris as part of a Rick Steves tour group. I didn't notice any particular negative vibe towards groups or my American traveller friends, but as a group we were most often at touristy spots and blended in with all the other camera toting tourists. The only thing I noticed while people-watching was that some people have a propensity for criticising that which is different - rather than realising that is what travel is all about! - to broaden the mind and experience things different to your normal life!
This is something I feel passionately about as I too had heard the negative myths and had been somewhat apprehensive. All I knew was some polite courteous phrases and questions in French and that was more than enough - that plus a smile and a positive attitude. Honestly - I loved the French and France and as you love their culture they'll surely love you too!
Bon Journee! :) Megan Brisbane, Australia - thinking enviously of your pending trip!