How Parisians confuse Americans

Magazine article reveals capital’s cultural peculiarities that confound visitors from across the Atlantic

15 May 2014

SMOKING around children, not talking to strangers, sitting down for coffee, and dressing up to go out to the shops. These are a few of the things that Parisians do that confound Americans, according to New York Magazine.

Smoking around children is the biggest shock to the system, the magazine said, despite the dangers to their children. New Yorkers could not cope with the guilt of lighting up in front of their children, it said.

Another surprise for an American living in Paris, is that it’s posh. The only time you’ll see a Parisian in gym clothes is when their taking exercise, New York Magazine says.

One American expat said that she disliked “dressing up” to go anywhere when she first arrived in the French capital.

But now, she said: “I’m slightly snobbish about people who walk around in sweatpants”.

Parisian reserve can also upset Americans at first. “When I arrived in Paris, I was mostly bothered by the indifference,” said one - who added that when a local “finally warmed to me”, he resented them for being “so cold for so long. I longed to banter with strangers.”

He added: “The aggressiveness of New York suddenly seemed almost friendly.”

But, it turns out the “refined, elegant” culture of Paris, compared to New York, is catching. One American who has been living in Paris for seven years told the magazine: “You learn to speak in a lower voice and react more slowly.

“Now when I go back to New York, I find people so reactive... And they shout! In Paris, you learn to be discreet.”

The article also points to New York traits that horrify Parisians, including the size of people in the Big Apple, the fact they buy their coffee “to go”, rather than sitting and enjoying a break at a cafe; how they interact with their children; and what the French could see as a lack of sincerity from the friendly facade of their cousins from across the Atlantic.

Photo: Mabel Flores

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