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. Yes, I know, you spent hours studying them. They are so much fun. And schools love to teach them since it makes for an easy, lively, fun class. The thing is, though, if the right idiom is used in the right sentence, it sounds and feels good, but as with all good things, too many idioms will make you look like you’re trying to hard to impress your audience. And Parisians don’t like this — it comes off as arrogant to them. The same caution applies to slang in general. Yes, Parisians do use a lot of slang: „merde” is common, so is „con,” „putain” and other less-than-charming words. But what sounds perfectly normal from the lips of a Parisian , sounds contrived coming from a foreigner. Furthermore, slang is used in a certain context; if you use it with the wrong people, or in the wrong situation, it will be a big faux pas.
There is no way around the importance of social classes in Paris. And at the risk of sounding snobby I’m going to tell you that, well, a lot of Parisians are snobby. The way you express yourself will tend to categorize you as belonging to one class or another. For example, many students have learned to say „De rien.” („It’s nothing.” ) as an answer to „merci.” De rien is indeed very used in Paris, but more so in the working class environment. Parisians who fancy themselves as upper classe would favor „Je vous en prie.” (pronounced shvoo zan pree), and „Je t’en prie.”
(shtan pree). Common mistakes among the French themselves include „la copine à ma soeur,” which should be „la copine de ma soeur.” If you speak Parisian like that, it will fly in a café, but not at the Ritz. So, get a feel for your surroundings, and talk freely in a relaxed setting, but watch the vocabulary you use in a more formal setting, and of course, use „vous.” I invite you to read more on this topic with audio tracks on my site.
It’s amazing the number of students who translate every single word from English to French. And this is so wrong. First, because it takes too long, and second, because in most cases, your vocabulary in English is much, much more developed than your French one. So, you may want to say „What a delightful place, the food is exquisite,” but very few of you would actually be able to translate such a complex sentence. Think of the idea, the essence of what you want to say — a compliment on the location and the food. Then use simple words and structure: „Le restaurant est beau. Et très bon” will get your point across, and Parisians will be delighted that you did pay a compliment, as they so often do.
There is nothing Parisians dislike more than a tourist stumbling over the name of one of their glorious cultural venues or street names. The idea that this might be difficult to pronounce for a foreigner does not even cross their minds. For them, it’s basic knowledge that anyone ought to know. So, here, pronunciation is really worth studying. I have recorded all these words in a slow pronunciation track that allows you time to repeat and practice, in my bilingual intermediate novel/travel guide „Une Semaine à Paris,” a Paris Guide With a Novel Twist,” available at my site.
If hugging is a common greeting in the States among friends and family, Parisians never hug. When I arrived for the first time in the States, it was so awkward to me that it actually took me about six years to feel comfortable enough to truly hug my friends. Parisian men shake hands: a firm, strong shake, looking into the eyes. If you are really happy to see the person, you may cover your handshake with your other hand. Women shake hands in a professional situation, or if they don’t know each other at all, but move on to kissing very quickly, even at work among colleagues — with both genders. For example, you may arrive at a party and shake hands, then socialize, make friends, and get kissed when you leave. The kiss is more of an air kiss, but the cheeks do touch, unlike the mocking American air kiss. Parisians usually kiss twice, once on each cheek, and it will feel weird if you stop at one. In other parts of France, the French kiss up to 4 times. This is also a question of social class. The higher up in social class, the less kissing and more handshaking. In more working class situations or with younger crowds, men sometimes kiss each other. Always on the cheeks, twice. They may even hug a bit, but more of a “tap on the back” kind of motion, not a big American hug.
Many of my French language students have studied for years, yet, they still find it a challenge to communicate effectively when in Paris. What is it that makes „Parisian French” so different from what English-speaking Francophiles learn in class? Are there ways to learn faster? How can big faux-pas be avoided? How can students of French better fit into the Paris lifestyle?
I lived most of my life in Paris, and Paris is where all my family comes from. I know there is so much more to speaking Parisian than perfect grammar and good pronunciation. Parisians expect you to know certain things, but won’t mind common mistakes — as long as you are making an effort. That said, there are good mistakes and, well, less good mistakes.
The problem is that language books cover only the language (and obsess on the tenses part of learning a language) and overlook the most important thing about learning French: the cultural differences, and the things Parisians really expect you to know. Mess up saying „Champs-Elysées” and they will shrug with disdain. Shower them with all the cool idioms you spent too much time studying, and you’ll come off as pompous. Parisians are not easily impressed, but fast to judge.
It is however rather simple to handle a friendly conversation — if you can overlook the fact that they’ll switch to English as soon as you open your mouth. Stay calm, and with a nice smile, say „Je préfère parler français.” They’ll cooperate. Then, use simple words, in simple constructions, and go to the point. My first audiobook — 90 pages, 3 hours of audio — is free to read, hear and download on my site, and written entirely in the present tense. Yes, sometimes it is not grammatically perfect, but why care — Parisians don’t. If you can learn to speak as I do in my audiobook, most Parisians will be happy to have nice, long conversations with you.
But speaking is not everything. There are lots of intricate „politeness” rules, which go far beyond the correct use of „tu” and „vous.” Did you know that in Paris, women seldom help themselves to wine, or, that you should never hug any French person (on some occasions, you may very well kiss them on only the second meeting).
On this page, I’m going to let you in on some very useful inside information on communicating with Parisians — both language tips as well as cultural insight. I offer this perspective to save you hours of studying things you will never use while in Paris. If you like what’s below, I invite you to find even more detailed information in the form of free lessons with audio files at my website.
Questions? If you have some simple questions about Speaking Parisian, I’d be glad to try and answer them. Just send me an e-mail here.
When people learn that I have reviewed hundreds of restaurants in Paris over the past eight years, they inevitably ask the same question: “So what is your favorite restaurant?” If only it were so simple. One day I might crave French specialties like a great big iron pot of boeuf bourguignon in jovial bistro surroundings, while another the most minimalist fish dish served on a sunny Paris terrace will fill me with contentment. For a night out with my husband, I look for a little bistro close to home with good wines; with a group of friends I love to venture out to Chinatown for a multi-course Laotian feast washed down with Tsing Tao beer. Haute cuisine splash-outs are rare events not just for the sake of my banker’s blood pressure, but because I find that the most formal French meals are rarely the most relaxed.
To complicate matters further, my job rarely allows me to become a regular at any French restaurant. I might be enthralled with a new find, only to discover six months later that the restaurant hasn’t lived up to its initial promise. That’s why I am always fascinated to hear the opinions of fellow restaurant reviewers (I work with 20 other critics on the Time Out Paris Eating and Drinking guide), Paris Notes readers and those who have used my Edible Paris service.
Once I have explained all this, people usually look at me impatiently. “But what is your favorite restaurant?”
After much agonizing I have narrowed my list of favorite Paris restaurants down to 20 (with an emphasis on French cuisine), which in a city of 20,000 restaurants is no mean feat. Even this carefully thought-out selection would be meaningless unless I explained my Paris restaurant criteria, which you’ll find at the end of the list. I have chosen Paris restaurants that represent a range of prices, food styles – regional, traditional, modern, fish, haute – and neighborhoods. This was more of an accident than anything, reflecting that fact that I don’t like to eat the same food or spend time in the same neighborhood every day. Restaurants are listed in arrondissement order, as it would be impossible to list them in order of preference – each establishment corresponds to a particular mood.
Because Paris restaurants change at such a dizzying pace – just look at Alain Senderens, who transformed the art nouveau landmark Lucas Carton into a fusion restaurant overnight – the Top 20 will be fluid. A restaurant might be bumped off by a new discovery too great to ignore, or lose its spot after a disappointing meal. Unlike the feared Michelin inspectors, I don’t consider any restaurant sacred – and, with very rare exceptions, I dine anonymously and pay my own bill. I am confident that if you try every restaurant on this list you will have a complete – and encouraging – picture of Paris dining today, one that will keep you coming back to this city for the food alone.
Paris is indeed a temple, the doors of which are always open to anyone who is receptive to beauty, civilized values and delight of the senses. Experience the richness of its art, history, culture, architecture, cuisine and history, and most people are hooked for life.
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Créée en 2005, Extramuros l’association mène des recherches et des actions de sensibilisation pour une valorisation originale des objets et matières mis au rebut.
Trop abondants, les objets perdent vite de leur valeur et sont alors délaissés. C’est précisément ce rapport dégradé aux objets que nous cherchons à transformer : nous leur inventons de nouvelles fonctions, nous leur offrons une renaissance.
Pour valoriser la matière, nous adoptons un regard résolument différent, cherchons d’autres perspectives, persuadés de l’immense source de stimulation que les objets mis au rebut constituent pour l’imagination.
Extramuros l’association propose à ses partenaires (collectivités, entreprises, administrations, ONG, etc.) de concevoir, organiser et animer des actions de sensibilisation au détournement des matériaux mis au rebut, notamment des expositions et des ateliers participatifs.
La mise en œuvre de ces actions et la réalisation des objets conçus par l’association est prise en charge par Extramuros l’atelier.
Extramuros l’association est reconnue d’intérêt général.
En savoir plus sur les activités d’Extramuros l’association :
-> Expositions de créations réalisées à partir de matériaux de récupération
-> Ateliers participatifs créatifs et ludiques
Créé en 2008, Extramuros l’atelier est une entreprise d’insertion qui fabrique et distribue des objets, meubles, réalisés à partir de matériaux de récupération sélectionnés.
Pour imaginer, transformer, et assembler ces objets, nous adoptons un regard résolument différent, nous cherchons de nouvelles perspectives, persuadés de l’immense source de stimulation que les objets mis au rebut constituent pour l’imagination.
Pour réduire au minimum notre empreinte écologique, tous les procédés de fabrication et les produits utilisés sont respectueux de l’environnement ; pour augmenter au maximum notre empreinte sociale, tous les moyens de production sont au service d’un projet d’insertion.
Extramuros l’association fait part à l’atelier de sa créativité et de sa maîtrise des techniques écologiques.
Découvrir les Objets Infinis imaginés et réalisés par Extramuros: