Last updated on September 7th, 2017
Shaking hands and kissing (La bise)
You must try to shake hands at every opportunity, especially among men and boys. Kisses are only between female and male, and female and female Parisians. Men kiss only if they are relatives or have known each other for a long time, or are gay. If a man kisses you (and you are another man), and you hardly know him, that does not necessarily mean that you have scored points, so don’t get your hopes up. A firm hand shake and firm look into the other person’s eyes between men, with an accompanying pat on the shoulder and ça va? (how goes?).
Kiss only once on each cheek. Technically this is not a wet kiss, but more of a rub of cheeks, starting with the right cheek. Move quickly to the next cheek unless you’re flirting. Only kiss twice, or run the risk of being derided as a provincial (provincial), i.e from the French countryside. In Paris, we kiss only twice, outside of Paris they do it four or even six times, but let them.
Paris and the French Desert (Paris et le Désert Français )
You may have heard or read that Parisians have an attitude. Rightly. Parisians justly believe that Paris is the centre of France, although the capital city is really located in the north central part of the country…
It is an attitude to be a Parisian. There is a Parisian accent that the provincial like to mock but cannot quite imitate. How to define? Vague amusement, or outright disdain for anything provincial. Except for the foods and wines of course, as Paris does not raise any geese for foie gras, but does cultivate grapes for wines (see our blog on Paris vineyards).
So the country bumpkins are called péquenot. They are slow and clueless when surrounded by aggressive and perfumed Parisians. Conversely, Parisians are thought as scornfully arrogant and vain by the rest of France.
There are also those who say they are from Paris, whereas in fact they come from the banlieue (suburb). Every now and again, when they are fed up with Parisian haughtiness, people from the banlieue fall down on the city with some well deserved tyre and car burning and rioting.
Complaining in Paris (Se plaindre)
There may be some French people who do not complain for everything, but they must be living outside of Paris. To pass for a true local, you should complain for anything.
Start with the weather, too cold, too hot, too wet, or too depressing. Move on to bad service (that’s an easy one). Grève (labour strike) is also another favourite, in particular public transport (bus, metro, trains, air traffic controllers etc.).
A few choiced swear words are in order: p’tain (whore), fait chier (this makes me want to s***), and of course do not underestimate the ubiquitous merde (s***).
Facial expression is also key to expressing discontent. Here’s how: inhale deeply (but discreetly), make a pout, now exhale air evenly with a puffing sound through your tight lips. That’s it, you’re on your way to becoming a true Parisian.