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Posted Nov 5, 2010 in Hot Spots, Travel | 1 Comment

Paris: Top 5 Myths

Paris is perhaps one of the world’s most negatively stereotyped capitals in terms of its image and the French. Yet it rakes in an estimated 45 million tourists annually, making this iconic city one of the most popular destinations.

Despite its beauty and classical influence, the anticipation of my first trip to Paris had me preoccupied with rather daunting ideas imposed by the notorious myths attached to the French that are constantly echoed through hearsay. After spending a considerable amount of time in the city of lights, my personal experience has led me to think that Paris is just completely misunderstood. I’m aware that individual perceptions are based on situational experiences. The following general misconceptions of Paris are subjective defenses of the city that I grew to love.

1. The French are Rude

Consider these two facts about myself: My French is minimal and I was raised in Quebec, a province that reeks with separatist’s sentimentality that can have hostile ramifications between ethnic communities. If there was ever a place where I have experienced rudeness, it is my hometown. Paris was like an alternate reality where my broken French was not once disparaged nor criticized. My friend and I were assisted and directed in a cordial manner at all times, even in metro stations! Restaurant servers smiled, and the numerous strangers we stopped in the streets for assistance were helpful and if not, were still polite. I also observed that the French clearly foster bilingualism with the evidence of its public signs and written directions in English and sometimes even Spanish included – a wise effort to facilitate more tourism. I did notice the pushing without apology in the occupied metro cars which struck a nerve, but not enough to typecast the French as rude. This misconception, in my opinion, can be stemmed from years of labeling Paris as pretentious and thus, misreading the French’s intellectual and political air and sternness as haughty and pompous.

2. French People Hate Americans

It’s no secret that America’s reputation is marred across the globe, but such animosity was not revealed to me on my trip if I was ever mistaken as an American. In fact, the French television I watched in my hotel room often reverenced or openly praised American pop culture and sports.

3. The Eiffel Tower is Smaller in Person

I heard this rumor somewhere after I returned from Paris and it made me burst out laughing. The famous tower stands 1,063 ft tall and is further aggrandized by the city’s low-leveled buildings. Sure, any image can appear emphasized on photograph, but to those people who have faced this magnificent hunk of metal architecture and said that it does not look so grand from their vantage point, they have a problem.

It’s worth noting that the most outstanding view of the Eiffel tower is guaranteed to awe you when exiting from the Trocadéro metro station in the 16th arrondissement. It will unexpectedly surprise you at the moment you make a left turn at the corner of this station.

4. The Paris Metro System is Difficult

Okay, I would be lying if I would say that navigating around the city with the metro’s 16 lines is a cinch. But it is not that bad if the metro map is closely studied. Think of it as a game of connect the dots (or in this case, connecting lines). It is confusing at first but not to worry for each station is equipped with specific signs for the directionally challenged such as myself. It’s perhaps the most convenient method of transport in Paris because you won’t have to wait more than 2 minutes for each metro to arrive (no more than 5 minutes on the weekend) and many stations are appropriately situated providing easy access to the popular attractions.

5. Paris is Dangerous

Danger is often misused and overused by people who are ignorant of geographic locations they have never stepped foot in or have very little knowledge of. Paris is heavily dense with tourists; therefore, travel entails using common sense regarding safety and personal possessions. The same rules also apply for other popular destinations like Rome and New York for example. In other words, relax! Besides, what’s life without risk?

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  1. Jack Stillings says:

    I’m a fellow Cabin Crew member, based in London. I’ve been to Paris dozens of times in my life, and frankly, Londoners are a lot ruder than the Parisians! I have been mugged in London, but never Paris; I personally find the Metro as easy as the London Tube, and know some English people with very negative, stereotypical views of both Americans and the French!

    Personally, Vive la France et Paris! Haha

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