An introvert in Paris

An introvert in Paris

Is Paris for introverts? If so, certainly not in the way a U.S. city is. Blending in here takes a whole different set of tools than across the pond.

Despite the reputation that Paris has for being unfriendly, there’s actually a cultural framework that seems to dictate otherwise. Saying “bonjour” when you enter a shop or restaurant and “bonne journée” or “au revoir” when you leave, or greeting all your coworkers as you walk by in the morning, or wishing “bon appetit” when you walk through the kitchen area at lunch time, is all expected – unlike the attitude that is typical in the U.S. in these situations. In fact, it draws more attention to you if you miss out on these standard greetings. As an introvert and as an American, this may have been the biggest adjustment I had to make upon coming here. Blending in – something introvert me was happy to attempt – actually dictated speaking up more!

The American standard of looking at your cell phone to avoid engaging with people doesn’t fly here either! On the contrary, since most French people don’t walk around with their phones out, doing this pegs you as a tourist under the assumption that you’re looking at your phone for directions – and draws (unwanted) attention. Instead, keep your phone in your pocket and use headphones if you need to hear directions (a tip I got once I arrived here; it’s served me well!). Walking with your head up and with an air of confidence in your step will help you look more like a Parisian than an outsider and avoid having to engage in small talk with well-meaning restaurant owners and others trying to help you get on your way.

These are the two biggest situations that I would normally handle differently as an introverted American. Being aware of these cultural differences will help you to fit into a new social fabric and feel comfortable during your visit to the amazing city of Paris!

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