Paris. A city full of femmes fatales. They command respect and admiration, leaving most British women in awe, in envy, and a little bit scared. So what is the Parisienne’s secret? Quite simply, she doesn’t give a flying f***
Contrary to what I thought, it isn’t perfection that gives the Parisian woman that certain je ne sais quoi. Granted, she is a whole other level of groomed, impeccably organised, and she seems to function at a higher speed in general. You will never see her rummaging frantically in a handbag, and god help you if your bumbling indecision forces her to break her stride in the metro. Parisians are born with an inherent great sense of self-assuredness, which we often interpret as rudeness. If people want to misjudge them, them simply don’t care – as long as said people stay out of their way. So here’s a 5 step guide – which I like to think I’m getting better at following – on how to become a little more like a Parisienne.
1) Stop Apologising – Ce n’est pas la peine.
Ever noticed that in Britain, if someone accidentally knocks into another, both parties apologise? Or if we ask a question we often apologise first for intruding on the person’s time or privacy? We apologise too much. We’re constantly humbling ourselves and it’s not attractive.
Because the more you apologise, the more people will assume that you’re in the wrong, intruding on their privacy or precious time, and they will resent you for it. If a Parisian woman changes her mind mid order in a restaurant, she won’t then grovel to the waiter for forgiveness and beg to change her choice. She will simply pause momentarily, reflect, and say ‘in fact I’ll have…’ La classe, messieurs- dames, la classe.
2) Know what you want, and then ask for it.
Imagine the same restaurant scene when it comes to dessert. Now most British women will hum and grow almost embarrassed, or if they do choose with minimum fuss, they will almost certainly compensate with, ‘let’s go crazy,’ or ‘I’ll be going to the gym tomorrow!’ The Parisians have a different attitude to ‘treats’ – if they want one, they get one, and they eat it with minimum guilt, and the pleasure is the greater for it, and lasts longer until they crave something else. Again it seems to be the case that the British have an inherent sense of guilt, and when they treat themselves they must justify it or chastise themselves so as not to seem over-indulgent.
In the same way, when you enter a shop, a restaurant, or a hotel, look for what you want, be it the sale rail, the waiter or the check in desk and march straight over to it. Don’t dawdle. The Parisians glide and get things done. They don’t wait for things or waiters to notice them – they demand attention. The British dawdle.
3) If you don’t like something, say.
If everyone else got nuts and olives with their drinks and you didn’t, if someone is standing in your way, or if someone is taking liberties with you, learn to act. Again, British mentality means that we are often too scared to act for fear that we are overreacting or being selfish. A Parisienne knows herself well enough to know when something below par merits being pointed out. Calmly and firmly.
On the crowded metro in summer you would always see the tourists getting anxious about whether or not they would be able get through the crowds and off the train in time. They would stay quiet in growing anxiety and at the last moment hurl themselves, red faced through the oblivious locals and off onto the platform. The Parisians have a word that avoids this – ‘Pardon’. You hear it constantly echoing through the metro tunnels, and in shuffling crowds. It’s loud and it’s clear and it gets the job done.
4) Master the stare of indifference
Oooh this is a good one. The Parisienne stare – I love it. If someone crosses a Parisienne, she gives them a warning, steady stare. Better still, if a crowd of messieurs start very obviously eyeing a lady, she doesn’t look away and blush. She looks back, or rather, looks through them. Acknowledging their affront to her, but doing so in such a way to show that she holds such little value to them that she does not wholly recognise their existence. You’ll know it when you see it.
5) Organise and Prepare.
This is the key one to follow. You very rarely see a flushed, harassed Parisienne. They take time to organise and prepare before they go out to face the day. You never see them in the rain without an umbrella, nor ever running for the metro, or frantically looking round for where they left their purse.
In the heatwave last summer, I was especially shocked as to how they kept so cool and collected. Face spray – it turns out – is an essential, as is a hair band, floaty clothing and a decent pair of sunglasses. They don’t try and blag it with a half attempt – they don’t try to make do in situations such as these. They think out what they need, when they need it, and then they make sure said things are to hand when necessary. The girl guides had the right idea all along – be prepared – we just lost it when we got older.
Follow these pointers and with any luck you’ll be a more competent, confident and Parisian person. The stare is optional, but I’m determined to get it to earn my stripes…and beret.