Service of Foreign Customs that Make Me Smile: Paris Trip IV and a Half

June 26th, 2023

Categories: Customs, Humor, Travel

Ask an agent to lend you an umbrella–this sticker on the attendant’s booth at my stop in the Paris metro.

It’s fun to recognize different customs from one country to another and to chuckle at characteristic humor, when you see it.

Sculptor Yayoi Kusama across the street from Louis Vuitton.

In Vino Veritas

To prove what I thought I knew, my question to Google was “what percentage of a restaurant’s profit comes from the sale of alcoholic beverages?” The response: “The average revenue that comes with selling alcohol is 20 to 25 percent of restaurant income, but it can become much higher.” That’s here.

When three nights in a row at different restaurants in Paris the same thing happened, I wondered if the servers were worried about my health or what. I’d finish my glass of wine, still eating the main course, and nobody asked if I wanted another. This would never happen in NYC. Too much money is involved.

History of hair exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

I asked the helpful young Parisians who worked at my hotel what was going on. They explained that as a waiter’s tip is not impacted by the total bill as it is in the States, they had no incentive to increase the sale by offering more wine. It’s one more thing to do so why bother. “If you want more, ask for it,” was their obvious suggestion. Duh on me.

History of Hair exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Woof!

Was I in Puritan Paris or New England?

My French father was very strict compared to American dads. I nicknamed him the “puritan Parisian” much to my American mother’s amusement.

I thought of this when I was flabbergasted by a sign on the door of a grocery store that said no alcohol sold after 5 p.m. Was I in puritan New England or a US state with tough liquor laws? The purpose, the clerk explained, was to avoid liquor-fueled arguments.

Sticker on metro doors. Go Bugs B!

Wondering about the dinner guest who expected to pop in to buy a bottle after work on the way to a party I was told that this was the case only in some neighborhoods.

Rainy Weather

I enjoyed blue skies during my 10-day visit but a notice on a metro attendant’s window caught my eye. It offered a loan of an umbrella! I can’t imagine a program like that working in NYC.

I liked how the metro authority pulled in Bugs Bunny to warn passengers about getting fingers pinched if they put their hands on the doors.

Luxury Polka Dots

High end fabric designer’s window displaying a range of textiles.

The collaboration of sculptor Yayoi Kusama and Louis Vuitton impacted the luxury brand’s Christmas windows in New York and an LV store in Paris. Her trademark polka dots decorated the outside of the building as well as her dress on the humongous sculpture of her across the street.

Hairy Subjects

British designer Paul Smith’s artful displays of the artist’s work at the Picasso Museum made me smile. This room was covered in white plates to contrast with Picasso’s.

One of the exhibits at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs was “Des Cheveux & Des Poils.” It featured hairstyles over the centuries. A fun video showed a hairstylist creating an 18th century Marie Antoinette style concoction from scratch on a very patient model. There were plenty of reasons to guffaw throughout the exhibit. Note the dachshund style in photo above.

Fabulous Fabric Birds

I loved the way a fabric designer displayed his textiles by creating a flock of birds sporting them. The windows weren’t funny but they made me smile.

When traveling—even to a different US state—have you noticed customs different from yours or humor that seemed typical of where you were?

No alcohol sales after 5 pm–hard liquor, beer or wine–in the window of a Paris grocery store.

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8 Responses to “Service of Foreign Customs that Make Me Smile: Paris Trip IV and a Half”

  1. TC Said:

    THANKS FOR CREATIVE STICKERS AND DISPLAYS—LEAVE IT TO THE FRENCH TO SEE HUMOR IN EVERYTHING—EVEN WHEN IT’S NOT MEANT TO BE. IT’S WHAT IS MISSING IN U.S. ADS.

    SPEAKING OF WHICH—TRYING TO RECALL FRENCH SAYING ON THEIR RAILROAD FREIGHT CARS DURING WW1–SOMETHING ABOUT “40 MEN AND 20 HORSES”. DOES IT RING A BELL OR AM I LOSING IT?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    TC,

    Google to the rescue.

    I wasn’t familiar with the saying but I’m impressed that you are. This is what I read on the Air Force website:

    “By the end of the 19th century, railroads made it possible to transport people and goods quickly over long distances, and this transportation revolution soon affected military operations. Armies became reliant upon railroads for supplies, and during World War I, men and supplies flowed to the trenches in railroad cars. A familiar sight to American “Doughboys” was the French “forty and eight” railroad cars, which carried them to the front. These cars received their names because they could carry 40 men or eight horses, as was clearly painted on each boxcar.

    https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/196342/french-forty-and-eight-railroad-car/#:~:text=Assisted%20by%20the%20French%20military%2C%20the,WWII%20Prisoners%20of%20War%20Overview%20.&text=Assisted%20by%20the%20French,of%20War%20Overview%20.&text=the%20French%20military%2C%20the,WWII%20Prisoners%20of%20War

  3. ASK Said:

    In Germany (where I am now) absolutely no retail shop or supermarket is open on Sunday…if you need milk or eggs, forget it. Even truckers, foreign or German, cannot drive past midnight on Saturday. A driver risks a heavy fine by doing so. And while not really a Mediterranean country, watch for shop hours…closures for lunch and on certain days after lunch, they don’t reopen. Check the website or call first. And please, don’t ever walk into a shop through the “ausgang” (exit) door. Someone will notice and redirect you!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK.

    Have a superlative time!

    We are so spoiled here as even on major holidays there will be a deli or bodega open should we run out of milk or pasta or an onion. It’s a civilized move to identify one day where a large percentage of the population that works like the devil can catch its collective breath.

    When abroad I try to fit in so as not to appear like the Ugly American. I’ll remember to look for “ausgang” next time I’m in Germany.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Moving westward, may I suggest a trip to Alaska? The learning experience differs from the cultured cities of other continents, bur is well worth the lesson. Just make sure to remain aware of your surroundings, and when coming upon the footprints of a grizzly, run like hell back to where you started.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Everyone who has been to Alaska and who has taken a cruise to observe wildlife has raved. My dream was to return to Paris and I’m still enjoying the afterglow.

  7. Martha Tepper Takayama Said:

    I loved the humor in your French posts. I think our advertising is terribly artificial and heavy-handed. I especially dislike medical ads with enormous amounts of gritty details that show around mealtime. I think not being interrupted and pressured to consume more alcohol in restaurants is just lovely. I think the whole concept of underpaid staff working for tips objectionable. Workers should get a decent wage. I think that our socialization and our advertising are severely lacking in charm, humor and grace. It doesn’t have to be that way.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    There’s something wonderfully quirky about French humor.

    And I agree: Our medical ads are the worst. I didn’t watch TV in Paris. I took a break. So I can’t tell if they have nauseating commercials that list the side effects that appear to be worse than the condition they are aiming to cure or mitigate.

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