Paris, France Culture

Imei has a grab-bag of observations related to Paris, France and French culture. Remember: we’re American!

  1. What is that funny sound French people make that sounds like “Phhht?” The sound is made by squiring air quickly through pursed lips. When do you use it? Example: “I went to the ATM to withdraw money, but when I entered in the amount I wanted, then [sound of “phht”]. Implied: where’s da money?
  2. If you don’t want the waiter to take your plate while you sneak off to les Toilettes (femme for women, homme for men), place your knife and fork with the ends in a tee-pee formation. If you’re finished, place your utensils in a parallel position. If you’re eating in a restaurant, generally the bill won’t come until you ask for it, even if you eat like a snail [as opposed to eating escargots].
  3. Yes, you can drink the water from the tap.
  4. In the U.S., it is considered healthy for a man to drink one to two glasses of red wine a day (one glass for women). In France, it is considered sensible (i.e. reasonable) to drink three to five glasses of wine a day (two to three for women). Fancy that.
  5. The average number of spelling errors on a French policeman’s parking infraction form is 25 or more. Why? Because transcription is a bear in French, with so many different spellings of similar sounding words. [Don’t get Chris started about “your” and “you’re”, folks, or you might be hearing the word “dumbass” shortly thereafter.]
  6. Think starting a new business in the U.S. is difficult? It’s a cake walk compared to Paris, with exceptional laws that protect employees over employers, high taxes, and paperwork that will leaving your head spinning. [I salut anyone who starts a new biz in Paris. More power to you.]
  7. More words are left in the masculine gender, yet are applied to the feminine. I am allowed to call myself a Professeur du Yoga, instead using the typical feminine ending. I get to be a Mister! [did you know: there is an exclusive committee that approves or rejects the addition of words, pronunciation, and their usage in the French language. Do you think they will add the word, “Doh!” anytime soon?]
  8. Ever wonder about where such items as “French fries”, “French Toast”, “French Manicure”, and “French Kiss” come from? You can do a Google search on these, and there is plenty of speculation. But if you live as an ex-pat in Paris, you notice that the French culture is somewhat arbitrarily mapped to… well, just about anything. [and I’ve been reminded that the correct term is “Freedom fries”.]
  9. For business people, traveling with your iPhone means expensive charges for data unless you plan ahead. Options: buy a service plan to cover the time you are there, or better yet, get hooked up with someone with SIM cards from England and unlocked iPhones from Italy. [besides, you can make some international friends and practice your accent.]
  10. Thanks to a tip from an ex-pat we ran into on the Metro, there is another photo op location worth mentioning: the rooftop of the Printemps and the 11th floor of La Samaritaine (Louvre-Rivoli).

As expected, Paris is full of trivia, tribulations, and surprises, and reassurances. A trip to Paris is full of adventure and delight for the American tourist, and we highly recommend that you come for a visit soon.

Do you have any perspectives to share on French culture?