THE BARTENDER KNOWS #22
Everyone knows I have a serious addiction to the city of Paris. Why is that? Great question, dear reader. People have so many critiques (and for some, down right hatred) for the Parisians. I suppose I can understand. What are the greatest complaints about the individuals who live in that city? Let me count the ways…
People think the Parisians are: 1). Rude as fuck. 2). Cold as fuck. 3). Totally uninterested in helping outsiders. 4). Super pretentious. 5). Anti-American.
Now, these are all valid criticisms. I will openly admit that yes, there are Parisians who embody these less than admirable traits. Straight off the bat, some people could critique New Yorkers the same way. (NOTE: New Yorkers are not actually rude or cold. We’re just really, really, really busy. How else do you survive in this bizarre town? You need four jobs, skin as thick as an alligator and an unbridled willpower to survive. Catch us New Yorkers on a relaxed day (rare) and you will find some of the most interesting, multi-talented and curiously weird people on the planet).
But the French are not like us. The Bartender Knows wants to share this series of “Paris Talks” to clear up some of the misnomers Paris has accrued in her 2,000 year old saga. Take that in for a minute. New York City became a city in 1664. Paris became a capital city in 508 AD (and was a town even before that). That’s one hell of a history. I know us Americans love to extol our virtues and values as the best — but Paris deserves the right to its lineage. I remember the day I first set foot in Paris all the way back in 2002 (wow, 20 years flies by fast). My first thought was: “This town reminds me of the vibe in New Orleans”. The smarter part of my mammalian brain corrected me: “No. New Orleans is the step-child of the grand madame — Paris”. I nodded to myself. Maybe the millennia of spilled wine on the sidewalks gave off a certain scent.
I have now visited (and lived) in Paris over 15 times since those first nervy tourist steps along her gas-lit boulevards. I’ve learned a thing or two. In fact, most of my bar customers got a long and detailed essay on what to do and what not to do when they were visiting for the first time. One of the things you must realize and learn about Paris has nothing to do with the nice marble statues or the Belle Epoch style…it has to do with a mentality.
First things first, the French we meet (99% of the time) here in America are the wealthy. If not wealthy, at least grandfathered in to wealth. You have to remember, France is a socialist country — therefore, 75% of their income goes to the government and the services they provide. We pay what…35%–40% of our wages to our ungrateful government? (NOTE: When the fuck do we get to see the fucking receipts of where our money goes?). Either way, the French pay a lot of money back to their bureaucrats. SO…the only people that can really afford to travel to these great United States are the wealthy. And when I say wealthy, I mean their money goes back to King Louis the 18th kind of money. That’s why some of them that visit the USA come off like total fucking assholes (which they are).
Second, the French are simply better educated than us. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. All that money they pay back goes into education and higher learning. I mean, to go to their Sorbonne (their Harvard) costs pennies compared to the ridiculous amount of debt one can add up even at our shittier universities. The French generally can speak several languages. They are well-acquainted with their own history and the history of other countries by the time they are teenagers. So yes, when our slovenly, sweatpant-wearing, loud-mouthed entitled selves stumble into town trying to speak English to complete strangers (who are also caught up in the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life) — they might not be so keen on being cool.
Third, Paris doesn’t make any goddamn sense. Did you know that most cafes and brasseries close during a certain time in the afternoon? That’s just a cultural thing. Sure, there’s places that openly exhibit a sign that says “Service Continu” — but that’s mainly for the tourists. No self-respecting French person would eat at those places. To the French, eating out at a restaurant is a special occasion, not a daily habit. (NOTE: The food is so delicious and available at any grocery store for such little money that the average Parisian is confused by this 24-hour, “serve me now” mentality. Of course they have all the crappy fast food we have here in the States, but most of them would rather be caught dead than shoving a Whopper or a Subway sandwich into their gullets).
So right away, the American is confused. No one smiles, nothing is open at the right times, the Metro keeps changing routes randomly and the roads are so twisty-turny, you can get lost in 15 minutes. Fuck Paris, RIGHT?
Like any decent traveler, you should study a place before you go there. Now, no amount of reading a book can help you once you are street side, but a little research certainly helps (hence why you and your friends should read these “Paris Talks” essays. They’re practically collectibles). Let me address the aforementioned complaints wielded against our bons freres.
1). The French are rude. Yes — because you didn’t even try to speak the language of a country or learn about a culture that existed thousands of years before your own. I’d be a dick about that too.
2). The French are cold. Yes, this is true. One of the more amusing things my French friends tell me is that the American is always smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. It’s probably because our food is terrible and rife with chemicals. It’s probably because our government does nothing for its own people. It’s probably because if you are poor you have zero access to history or education. Yeah. So really, why are we smiling all the time?
3). The French are totally uninterested in helping outsiders. See Reason #1.
4). The French are super pretentious. Ok. I’ll go with you on this one. Have you ever been to Tokyo? The Japanese are so precise and exacting at most things they do. They take each and every detail very seriously — from the clothing they wear to their technology — the Japanese are very particular. The French are the Japanese of Western Europe, in both beauty, culture and manner. It’s a unique country all its own — and they hope people understand that. And if people don’t, well, get ready for the most beautiful sounding swear words you’ll ever hear in your life.
5). The French hate anything American. This is total bullshit. Secretly, the French love us. They love our culture, our movies, our swagger and our ingenuity. EVERY person I met in France, especially outside of Paris, thinks America is a fascinating place. Our brutalism does offend their delicate nature, however. Our obsession with guns, the death penalty, lack of education and zero social safety nets for the sick and the dying does disturb them. But after all, they are goddamn socialists, so of course they’re going to think that way. Hell, their country is smaller than the size of Texas. I’d like to see how they roll with a country as big and diverse as we are. But still, France and America are tied forever.
After all, Ben Franklin stole all the French ideas about the sovereign individual and imported them back here. Where do you think our Bill Of Rights comes from?
It’s not China — that I can assure you of.
Until “Paris Talks” Part Three…