Hate to break it to you, but the stereotype of the Parisian wearing a beret does exist. Pictured below in all his cliche-ridden glory:
Normally, when I travel I like to debunk stereotypes. After all, if you could learn everything about Europe from visiting Epcot, why would you bother going to real place? For example, despite how my German class last summer led me to believe that Germans couldn't live without bread, when I actually visited Berlin I learned that Germans only start the morning off with rolls if they have visitors to impress. Nevertheless, sometimes stereotypes exist because they're true. Fortunately for Paris, most of the cliches are in their favor. Like Gil Pender proclaims in "Midnight in Paris", Paris really is beautiful in rain. So here I am to verify a few more stereotypes.
The Parisian Waiter: France is a country that prides itself as much on its food as its art, food almost is an art (as demonstrated by the title of Julia Child's famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking) and the waiters are the curators of it. They aren't broke college students trying to make an extra buck for beer runs (they work at Starbucks). This isn't a part-time job for them, it's a career and like all careers, there's a craft to it and certain amount of respect demanded from it. So just like you wouldn't run screaming through an art museum (unless it was performance art), here is one simple rule for how not to irk your Parisian waiter so you can enjoy the delicious slice of chocolate torte above:
1. NEVER seat yourself. In France, the customer is not always right, they're at the bottom of the hierarchy and must defer to the waiter. They know what's best for you. Regardless of how many open tables there are, this is not musical chairs, you must be directed to your seat by your waiter. My mother and I witnessed an American couple learn this the hard way Cafe de Flore. It was a quiet afternoon at the famous cafe with only old Parisian men reading papers (yup, that cliche is in full force too), so there were plenty of tables to enjoy the legendary chocolat chaud at and this couple sat themselves at one. Unlike my mother and I, who got a table from the waiter and were served within 15 minutes, this couple was ignored for 15 minutes until the husband was so annoyed that he huffed out of the cafe with as much attitude as a Parisian waiter ironically. Where were the waiters? They were giving this couple the silent treatment until they left and then the waiters started laughing and rolling their eyes at each other. See, the waiters do have a sense of humor, except the joke is on the customer if they don't follow the rules.
The Luxembourg Gardens is the place to people watch in Paris. The artists sketching, check! The old men playing chess like it's a competitive sport (well, to them it is), check! If you want a relaxing afternoon and some intriguing characters to observe, look no further.
However, even if Parisians wouldn't like to admit it, Paris is a tourist city and sometimes it's fun to mock your fellow travelers. After all, my goal is always to mistaken for a native (not so sure if this was accomplished when some Spanish tourists stopped me to ask if I knew where the Starbucks was. Sorry, it's not like all Americans have a GPS in them that locates the nearest overpriced corporate coffee chain.) So I couldn't help but laugh at this tourist at the Rodin Museum who looked exactly like the bust he was staring at.
The birds of Paris exhibit all of the stereotypes of their human counterparts.
Like many Parisians, birds enjoy relaxing in parks too. Despite how most statues have spiky crowns to prevent birds from perching (and inevitably pooping) on them (as pictured above), the pigeon below didn't mind risking being impaled.
Part of the experience of going to Paris is people watching. I know it's not a good trip if I don't feel like a total slob after seeing so much "je ne sais quoi" Parisian chic around me. It's one stereotype that the Parisians live up to.