A Lesson on Parisian « Politeness ».
Today, I was walking on the street. When I approached a corner café a man sitting on a terrace bent forward and taking me in said « Tu* es magnifique, quelle allure! »(Translation: You are beautiful, what style!)
Yet, after 6 years of living in Paris I know all too well that a well-mannered Frenchman would never say « tu » to an unknown woman passing him on the street. What’s more, a well-mannered Frenchman would not dare to address an unknown woman on the street (unless, of course, he invented a very elegant pretext).
But a well-mannered Frenchman would probably do nothing more than delight in the vision of a woman he found stylish.
An ill-mannered man spoke to me in an inappropriate way on the street.
And as a well-mannered woman I should have been offended.
Instead, I felt goddamned flattered. Yes, flattered! An indecent thing!
No matter who speaks to you and no matter how “elegant” the context is, nice words are always welcome in the pages of my Paris story. We all need to hear them and the more often the better.
* « Tu » is a personal pronoun which is used only for people that you know well, e.g. friends, family. Otherwise, you should use « vous » to show respect to strangers and seniors