Service of A Bad Rap: My Paris Trip II

June 15th, 2023

Categories: Bad behavior, Bad Rap, Museums, Tourism, Travel

Iconic clock at the former Paris railroad station, now the Musée d’Orsay

Bad raps abound. Some enjoy repeating them and are often smug about it. And as they utter tired claims, they look as though they think that they are clever and have made a discovery.

President Gerald Ford, one of our most athletic heads of state, was known as a klutz because of a widely publicized photo of him tripping down the steps of a plane. I went to a college that in the day had a reputation for cheap looking female students with big, overly sprayed hair and too much makeup. Nobody like that crossed my path. Recently on a local NYC radio station a morning show host claimed that Canadians were boring. That was news to me.

And what is Paris’s bad rap? If I had $1.00 for every time I mentioned Paris to some folks who’d parrot “Parisians hate Americans,” or “They are so unfriendly and rude,” I would cover more than a month’s rent. It happened as recently as Sunday when someone learned I’d just returned. I’ve been to Paris many times for a few days and hadn’t noticed it then and in 10 days you’d think I’d have an even better feel for things.

Manet picture at the Manet-Degas exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay that’s coming to the Met in NYC

Have these self-righteous ignoramuses forgotten the attitude of some New Yorkers who can’t control their overstressed, overworked, exhausted, grumpy selves that translates to rude and impatient behavior? Their Paris claims could be describing Big Apple’s citizens, bus drivers or subway employees, restaurant staff etc. Paris is a big city too and has its share of equal opportunity angry grouches. I’ll also describe a few.

Here are just some examples from my magical 10-day visit that challenge the overwhelmingly negative allegations:

  • I hadn’t made a reservation to see the Manet-Degas exhibit** at the Musée d’Orsay and asked the guard how long she thought it would take to enter the exhibit given the very long line. She asked if I was alone.

“Oui,” I said. She ushered me to the front of the line and in I walked like a celebrity. The smiles of the young guard who witnessed my happy surprise and overheard my ebullient thanks equaled hers. **The exhibit is coming next to the Metropolitan Museum. Don’t miss it.

  • I asked a keeper of one of the many kiosks that sell magazines, postcards and tourist items if he carried notecards with envelopes.

He asked, “Do you need an envelope?”

Me: “Oui.” He went into his cubby and pulled out an envelope and wouldn’t take a centime for it.

  • Many of the metro workers are over-the-top helpful. One printed out maps and directions for me. Another patiently explained the system to a British couple ahead of me in line. I was turned around in a metro station and a third walked me to the right set of stairs.
Waiting for the metro. It was a joy to ride
  • I was more than a half an hour late for my 11:30 timed entrance to the Musée de l’Orangerie, apologizing all over the place and out of breath. The young woman checking the timed document and my museum pass smiled and told me not to worry. Did I mention the long line outside of those without timed tickets?
  • I was parched and not the tiniest bit hungry and in a part of town with only two restaurants near the metro station I needed to use. I had a hard deadline as I was leaving town that afternoon so there was no time to explore other options. I asked a waiter at one if I might just have something to drink and he apologized, said they were serving lunch and as I turned to go he ushered me to the back and said to the bartender “she just wants a drink.” And that’s all I had.
  • I found a restaurant near my hotel with good food and a joyful staff. On my last night one server greeted me and declared that the table I’d chosen again was “your table.” I felt at home as I did when one of the young men at the front desk of my hotel ran to the door as I headed for my taxi, leaned out, smiled and waved goodbye.
  • Without exception the hotel employees were upbeat and helpful.
  • I was told Uber was unreliable in Paris. I couldn’t find empty city taxis. The Uber I ordered to take me to the airport arrived on the dot. Others ordered while on the run found me just fine.

Not everyone was perfect.

  • I didn’t return to a brasserie I’d visited for breakfast for a few mornings after a waiter I’d not seen before was exceptionally rude.
  • In another instance, the owner of a restaurant near my hotel that was recommended by an acquaintance acted as though she could live without my trade, so she didn’t see me again. [She preferred to chat up couples and single men. Hers was the only restaurant, from the most humble on up, where I wasn’t asked mid meal if everything was OK.] I haven’t written up my experience at this place in Yelp but am sorely tempted.
  • And last, the old woman selling tickets to the Montmartre funicular was supremely nasty to an Australian tourist ahead of me. She clearly hated her job and spewed her anger all around. We know the type.

Three blatant negatives over 10 days isn’t enough to deprecate an entire city.

In a way I’m happy that Paris’s reputation as a place Americans should avoid lingers because there were already so many tourists [from all over] and it’s not even high tourist season. Let them go elsewhere.

What bad raps about institutions, countries or services irritate you because they are unfair and inaccurate?

In addition to Monet’s celebrated “Water Lillies,” the Musée de l’Orangerie has an incredible collection of magnificent pictures

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7 Responses to “Service of A Bad Rap: My Paris Trip II”

  1. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie on Facebook: Such a fabulous trip!

  2. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Good people everywhere. Bad people everywhere. Generalizations irk me. PS pics are wonderful.

  3. MARTHA TAKAYAMA Said:

    I am glad you had a wonderful trip! I have to say that perhaps Paris has or continues to have evolved about their feelings toward non-Parisians, non- French people and Americans than they have been for a long time. I think a lot of the gracious treatment you experienced is at least in part due to your inherent charm, grace and attractive appearance. I lived in Pais for 6
    months a million years ago and went back over the years including to my step-daughter’s graduation from ESSEC with a ceremony at the Hotel de Crillon where her mentor from the house of Chanel was the stereotype. of the insolent and almost obnoxious Parisian, however towards her beau who was not Parisian. She suggested that he must be Belgian!. Except for my trip with my Japanese husband, I was treated rudely on different trips when people though I was Spanish, Italian and then worst of all American! (Only if I claimed to be South American did I get a positive reaction,)
    I have to say that I experienced all the rude behavior of the cliche.

  4. TC Said:

    Enjoyed comments about bad rap Paris. A sort of change up of quintessential ugly American image abroad. So glad it made a difference in your enjoyment of trip.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    New York has a bad reputation for similar reasons listed above. Some folks get a kick out of negativity. My advice is to ignore the sour balls and have a good time. Who cares if someone hates Parisians? They could care less – and so should you!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    The fashion industry has a reputation for arrogance at the high end fomented by leaders such as Vogue EIC Anna Wintour and at the low end, those in the rag trade, for cutthroat meanness. You can’t blame Paris for that. It’s an international thing.

    I’m sorry you had memorably bad experiences otherwise. Nothing’s perfect —I described a few negative instances in my post. I think you have trouble with NYC as well. When I had a house in upstate NY I was blown away when treated offhandedly or nastily as I thought people were supposed to be civilized and gracious in beautiful surroundings but no—the nasties or rude arrogant folks come out of the cracks and from under rocks everywhere. What sad lives they lead.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Au contraire, some care a lot. I saw a lovely, helpful, smart hotel employee receive a dress down by a nasty American couple. He was flustered as he parried their aggressive accusations. There was no pleasing them as they had a chip on each shoulder —but he tried.

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