I traveled to Paris once many years ago and was told that French people could be unfriendly and rude. And during my trip, that’s kind of what I experienced. But before I went to Paris just recently, I asked a friend of mine who has spent LOTS of time in France to tell me everything I needed to know about how to make the most of my trip. She told me something really interesting.
She said that in Paris, when you go into a store, restaurant, or even up to a ticket window, consider this: That at least in the mind of the person whose space you have just entered, you are walking into their HOME. Therefore, the FIRST thing you should say (with a warm, friendly smile), is “Bonjour!” (hello.) I mean, would you just walk into ANYONE’S house without at least saying hello?
I didn’t think too much about what she said, but when I got to Paris I noticed something very interesting. I would see something nice in a store window, go inside to find it and (here comes the part I’m not proud of) walk RIGHT PAST THE SALES PERSON OR STORE OWNER WITHOUT SAYING A WORD. Why did I do that? Because that’s my automatic, unthinking habitual behavior – my default program whenever I walk into a store. I EXPECT them to say hi to me – but I don’t AUTOMATICALLY say hi to them first. Sometimes I might, but not (I discovered on this trip) as a rule.
How did I even notice that this was happening? Because a couple of times the sales person or owner would say to me, “Bonjour…?” With a subtext that conveyed, “Um, hello? Did you even notice me? What am I, chopped liver?”
Yes! I heard it in their tone! And of course in that moment I would gasp and say, “Oh! Bonjour, mademoiselle! Bonjour!” (in my happiest, most apologetic, sincerest way). THEN, most of the time, the person would smile at me.
I’d like to say that I corrected the problem and never repeated my offensive behavior. But, not so. I did do it again. Sometimes I remembered, and by the end of the trip, I was getting pretty good at it, but I was stunned at how many times I forgot, even when it was VERY clear to me that (and here comes the important part): I was considered the unfriendly rude one. Me. Moi.
What I discovered was that when I experienced a “rude, unfriendly Parisian,” it was because I HAD CREATED THEM! What I saw is how easy it is to place ALL blame on another person for something and absolutely not see my role in creating an outcome. Oh man. That is SO not what I wanted to realize.
Join me, won’t you? Just for this next week, every single time you go into a store or a restaurant, be the first person to say hello in your friendliest warmest way. See if 1) you actually remember to do it and 2) it makes a difference in how friendly the other person is to you.
Hey. We just might eliminate ALL the rude people in the world with this one, right?
From your VERY idealistic motivational speaker, Linda Larsen, ready to own her part in the problem