Two days spent in Paris do not make for an accurate reading of how I will be treated and what I can expect when interacting with les Parisiens. First, It’s only been two days. Second, I’ve been staying in hotels and a touristy area where you wouldn’t expect to get a taste of what Paris is really like. But I have been to the grocery store, bought a sanduiche at a boulangerie and ate at a Thai food restaurant all without issues. I actually really prefer the way workers treat you here- they don’t hover and aren’t overly attentive[read: Annoying See: Employees of Abercrombie, Starbucks, and most order-to-go places].
And that’s great news for me as I’m someone who takes 10 minutes to pick out a piece of fruit or decide on what type of tea to order. Here, the workers greet you courteously with a “bonjour” without a fake smile and just wait for you to approach them to ask them questions or to order. At first I felt like the two workers behind the counter would get annoyed at me as I did laps around the bakery trying to see what I would like best and spend my money on. But they just carried on a conversation amongst themselves until I went up to them to order. If I was in NYC, I would have a worker who continues to look up at me in anticipation and asking me if I’m ready, even when I’m not holding up a line. Du calme!
But one thing I will say is that Parisians are so vain.
How else can you explain all the mirrors around the city? They’re everywhere- built into the interior design of stores or mounted in the oddest places. So far, in just two days I noticed that the chain grocery store Monoprix (or was it Fanprix? I don’t remember) has rectangular mirrors on the sides of those cement columns all around the store. I could understand in the hair accessory aisle or beauty aisle, but why would anyone need a mirror in the soap or canned food isle other than to make sure that they’re just as beautiful as they remembered when they checked themselves out in the yogurt aisle.
I also found a large rectangular mirror on the side of a stone building and, most abundantly, on the wall adjacent to each customer’s table at a sandwich shop.
I don’t know how else to explain this phenomenon other than to guess that Parisian culture is very concerned with looking just so that they need these mirrors available at all times . God forbid the wind, rain or any other everyday force shifts a lock of hair three centimeters out of its proper place.
Speaking of another sense: In the French language, there is a very poetic way of describing the scent of perfume one leaves behind as they walk past you. It’s le sillage de parfum or “trail of perfume”. This phrase that I thought I would never really use has come to my mind several times while in Paris because everyone just smells so good!
And not in that [American] way of dousing yourself in perfume so that everyone knows that you’re wearing a $75 dollar perfume, but in a way that you only recognize it because they breezed past you and the scent perfume doesn’t have to compete with as much air pollution as in NYC. And I am super appreciative of this as smelling something pleasant always has a way of boosting my mood ever so slightly. I’m sure there will be moments when I’m on the metro and I want to change cars because so-and-so smells offensive. But as of now I’m pretty sure we can dispel that other horrible and antiquated rumor about the French…