Paris is one of the most famous cities in the world. And this naturally leads to a lot of opinions and associations concerning its existence.
Lots of us may have watched Emily in Paris, which is not without its controversies. The show provoked a lot of conversation about stereotypes of France’s capital city, with Parisians especially criticizing the city’s negative and clichéd portrayal.
Is there any truth to these stereotypes? Probably as with most stereotypes, you should take them with a pinch of salt and assess the truth for yourself.
But, as someone who lived in Paris, I’m going to take you through some common Parisian stereotypes to shine some light on their origin and whether they’re really true.
Stereotypes about Paris
1. It’s the City of Love
When a lot of people think of Paris, they think of its common reputation as the City of Love. They dream of romantic walks along the River Seine, quaint cafés and whispers of the beautiful French language.
It’s true, Paris does give a romantic feel to those who visit. It’s one of the most visited cities by couples in the world.
The stereotype of French people as charming and passionate can indeed be true, but don’t assume all Parisians are like this.
2. It’s incredibly bureaucratic
In the UK at least, France and Paris have the reputation for being incredibly disorganized and bureaucratic. And, having experienced the difficulty of moving to Paris and all its various organizations, I can confirm that bureaucracy in the French capital can be as bad as it is made out to be.
For example, in order to start my new job, I was required somewhere to live in the city before my start date. But, to successfully sign a new rental contract, the landlord will check that you are already employed and earn three times the monthly rent. Make it make sense!
3. It’s so beautiful
Millions of tourists come to Paris every year for the pure beauty of the city. From my perspective, it really doesn’t disappoint. The Parisian style of wide boulevards and white buildings with carefully decorated façades is stunning.
And outside of the built-up areas, Paris’s green parks are a wonderful space to relax and appreciate life.
But, like every city, not all of it can be like this. Paris’s architecture is made up of a large variety of styles. Though they can also be very charming and pretty, the stereotype of traditional Parisian architecture is not always the case.
4. It’s dirty
Despite its reputation for being beautiful, the city is also known for not being so clean. This seems to be linked to a more relaxed and chaotic way of life than other more organized cultures.
From experience, the city is not as clean as other cities I’ve visited in the past. Along the road I walked to work, dog mess was a bit of a problem and I had to make sure I knew where I was putting each foot.
But, the thing was this didn’t bother me so much, and it probably doesn’t bother the Parisians either. It really is not as bad as some say, and Paris cannot only be the Paris you see on postcards.
Stereotypes about Parisians
5. Parisians are rude
Unfortunately, the most common stereotype about Parisians is that they are rude and even mean. This stereotype is so often repeated that can it really be false?
I can see why some tourists to Paris may think that Parisians are rude, especially when the only people they interact with are waiters or shop staff. But, all in all, I would like to say that this stereotype is overinflated.
In fact, Paris has a very polite society. Greetings like bonjour and easy words of courtesy like s’il vous plait and merci are expected. And, if you forget these, it’s likely your waiter will think that you’re rude and probably be rude back. After all, if you’re visiting Paris, it’s really not too much to ask to learn some simple French expressions and be nice to your waiter!
Don’t be an Emily in Paris and expect everyone around you to speak English in a non-English speaking country.
That said, rude people clearly exist all around the world. You will find some of them in Paris, but try not to blame all French people as most of them will often be very happy to give you a helping hand when needed.
6. Parisians are stylish
Part of the draw of Paris is the fashion. The stereotype is that everyone is très chic and the roads are full of well-dressed Parisians.
This stereotype is true and not so true. In general, Parisians do dress well and do take care of their appearance, perhaps even more so than other areas of the country. After all, this is the home of Chanel and Louis Vuitton.
That said, well-dressed does not mean head-to-toe in berets and stripy shirts. As expected of anywhere, people wear hoodies, tracksuits and trainers. Though this may not be the stereotype of the well-dressed Parisian, many Parisians still look very good while doing it!
And, as my friend told me, berets are only for the older generations and hipsters. Don’t expect to see them on every French head.
7. Parisians smell
This stereotype is especially unfair. It’s sometimes claimed that French people don’t shower, don’t shave and smell of strong cooking smells like garlic.
Really, this is just a stereotype. Parisians smell just as normal as anyone else. Yes, the cooking may be infused with a bit more garlic, but I’m sure your taste buds aren’t complaining.
And who cares? It’s 2022. If women don’t want to shave, that’s really not your problem.
8. Parisians are lazy
As was made obvious in Emily in Paris, the stereotype of Parisians tends to be that they’re lazy.
Again, it depends on the culture you’re from. Americans may find Parisians lazy because they’re used to working longer hours with little paid holiday. But, France has some of the best labor laws in the world and French people don’t see the need to work any more than they have to.
As one character says, French people work to live, rather than live to work. That may be your definition of lazy, but it’s definitely not mine.
Stereotypes about Parisian arrondissements
Paris is broken down into twenty arrondissements, numbered 1 to 20 in a spiral from the centre. Each has its own story and individual vibe. So, be sure to visit as many as possible.
As there are stereotypes of Paris itself, there are also stereotypes for each of the local areas. But are these stereotypes true, and do they need debunking? We don’t have time for all twenty arrondissements, so here’s the best selection.
9. 1st arrondissement — overly touristy
The 1st arrondissement is right in the centre of the city. It’s home to the Louvre, the Tuileries, and the Palais Royal.
So, unsurprisingly, it is known to locals as overly touristy. That said, it is still popular with locals due to the huge Les Halles shopping centre.
10. 3rd and 4th arrondissements — full of hipsters
The area of Le Marais (literally “The Swamp”) is located across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. It was the traditional Jewish quarter of the city, but is now known as the main LGBTQ+ centre of the city.
For this reason, these arrondissements are stereotyped as trendy, full of hipsters, and young. In practice, I didn’t feel this was so true. I personally found Le Marais overly commercialised and a bit too gentrified to be cool now. But, maybe you’ll disagree when you visit!
11. 7th arrondissement — expensive and bourgeois
The 7th arrondissement is home to the Eiffel Tower and other key tourist attractions such as Les Invalides. This means it is stereotyped as expensive, bourgeois and overly touristy.
And, while strolling around the narrow streets of boutiques with the Eiffel Tower in sight, it might be hard to disagree.
After all, this arrondissement has the most expensive and prestigious housing in the whole city.
12. 8th arrondissement — all about high-fashion brands
The 8th arrondissement too is seen as expensive and luxurious, as home to the Champs Elysées and the many fashion brands centred on this long avenue.
But, many people forget it’s also a centre of business, and many companies have their main offices here.
The stereotype of luxury may extend as far as the elegant buildings and high fashion, but this is not all of the real 8th arrondissement.
13. 15th arrondissement — boring residential area
The 15th arrondissement is located in the far southwest of the city, and is the most populous arrondissement in the city.
For this reason, it is stereotyped as overly residential, with lots of families and not much to do. Some may just call it outright boring.
In my experience, I don’t think I ever actually went to the 15th arrondissement, so maybe this assessment isn’t completely untrue. Nonetheless, the Tour Montparnasse is an important building in the city’s skyline, so it’s not completely insignificant.
14. 19th and 20th arrondissements — multicultural
The 19th and 20th arrondissements in the city’s east are typically seen as traditionally working-class and multicultural, being home to a large number of Paris’s immigrants.
However, some think this is slowly being eroded, as the areas become gradually more gentrified. Increasingly, these arrondissements are seen as hipster areas, where young people seek to make the most of the cheaper house prices compared to the expensive centre.
In my opinion, these conceptions have their truth, and this is why I loved this area of Paris. In fact, I lived in the 19th arrondissement and loved its multicultural and friendly atmosphere, which is formed by a huge melting pot of people of all origins, ages and backgrounds.
But the only way to find out for yourself what you think of Paris and its stereotypes is to visit for yourself. Maybe you’ll be proven wrong!