Things Parisians do that stun us…and vice versa.

Ha ha. Have you seen this article in New York magazine about the things Parisians do that stun Americans…and vice versa?

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My favorite from the article is this one:

Parisians do not talk to strangers. This can be profoundly disconcerting to a New Yorker who’s used to freely bitching about life’s daily indignities with whoever happens to be in line with them at Duane Reade. If you comment to a Parisian in the métro that the un-air-conditioned car is particularly smelly today, they will give you a frightened look like you are a crazy person and turn away. 

My personal favorite (from mortifying personal experience) is that French people do not put their hands on their lap while eating. When I was an exchange student in France, this American habit of mine was a source of delighted horrification and shock to the little kids in my first French host family. “Where have your hands gone?” they would ask. “What did you do with them?” Their parents would attempt to shush them – usually to no avail – and then murmur urgent reminders to me. It was a very big deal. I learned quickly.

I am always fascinated by these small-yet-huge details and differences.

Do you have any to add? Did you learn any cultural lessons the hard way (like I did)? 😉


  1. JustSaying says

    Great article and I kept score………
    French Smoking +2 NYC
    Gym Clothes +1 Paris
    Child Discipline +1 Paris
    Talk to Strangers +1 Paris
    Pfat NY’ers +2 Paris
    Carry Coffee +1 NYC
    Peer Kid Conversation +1 NYC
    NYC Falsetto Friendly +1 Paris
    JFC Addition FOOD +2 Paris
    (Health issues count double)

    Paris 8
    NYC 4

    That’s it……I’m going tomorrow……………..

  2. I have recently fallen in love with New York magazine. I picked up a subscription in November for the 60 AA miles per dollar, and have been loving the awesome articles ever since. This article is another example!

    • Points Pixie says

      Gene – Yes, when I can find the time to read it, I love it. Always some article gold in there.

  3. “They will give you a frightened look like you are a crazy person and turn away.” Does this happen to you frequently? 🙂

  4. Vinicius says

    They get super mad if you speak with 2 or more ppl in the metro. They think is loud even if is not! Parisians… 😛

    • justSaying says

      I would love to have the ladies on my Golden Gate Transit bus go there for social retraining…….what a absolute pleasure to be able to travel and not hear how precious someone’s cat is (not)………..

  5. Observed 5/13

    Parisians let there dogs pooh all over the streets and leave it there for the morning street cleaners….Uggggh! Hubby and I caused an older gentleman great distress because we were talking in the metro…..whoa touchy! Watched a traveler attempt to rush a waiter…oh hell no!

  6. Funny thing about keeping your arms under the table. When I was growing up the taunt was,

    “Harry, harry (or whomever) strong and able,
    Keep your elbows off the table,
    This is not a horses stable,
    But a decent dining table.”

    In other words, keep your arms OFF the table. I guess the French don’t say this to their kids. 🙂

  7. good posts


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