You should not be surprised if everyone in Paris addresses you formally with "vous". Would you like to get familiar, enter a little trust, or try to melt the ice of the first meeting but find there is no way? The more you try to address them informally with a "toi", the more they insist on addressing you with "vous". It is difficult to explain, but it is as it is...

Many of you, especially Italians, think that we Parisians are snobby and uptight like having, as you say, a "stink under our noses". This is somewhat true. I confess, we are made like that. We struggle to welcome the unfamiliar and foreign as if they were one of us. We must be sure, probe, and deepen before completely trusting someone we do not know.

An Italian friend, who came to work in Paris some time ago, told me that his first approach with his work colleagues, all Parisians, was rather bizarre. He was the new Head, the PDG (Président Directeur Général, Chief Executive Officer) of the company that he came to manage in France. He thought it was better to attempt and Italian approach during the first meeting with the three top Managers of the company's various sectors. "Why don't we address each other informally with the "toi"? It is an Italian custom that facilitates relationships, smooths edges, and creates familiarity", he ventured. The first of the three welcomed the proposal reluctantly, and stammered: "It's not really our custom, but let's go with the "toi". It seems like a good idea!" The second, also visibly taken aback, hinted at a stunted smile and then, almost stuttering, said: "I’ll try! It will not be easy, but I'll try!" The third Manager was yet a young lady dressed with sober elegance and equipped with a penetrating glance that, even if it does not hurt, still leaves a mark. She approached my Italian friend proudly, looked him straight in the eye and said in a sharp voice: "Monsieur, I am a married woman. I come from a noble French family where there is a lot of respect for tradition. I have an 8-year-old son that I address formally with "vous". How can you think that I can address you informally?" My friend, chilled by that jab, did not dare to reply and understood that it was better to let it go. A few months later and after many successful business meetings, in front of the excellent economic results of the new company management, and at the end of a heavy day of work, the Italian PDG was invited to dinner with his French Managers. At the table, with a glass of champagne in hand, everyone, really everyone, began to address him with "toi".
This may sound like a stupid little story, but in Paris it is like this. It takes time, people need to know each other at least a little. Only then can friendship become possible. This is because friendship is really something grand and important. One needs to conquer it.

Maxime - Art & Culture

Bonjour, my name is Maxime. I obtained my name because my grandmother always took me to Maxime’s in Paris for my birthday, always in the company of her best girlfriend! When I was fourteen years old, I was already enamoured with their Parisian chatter. Now, when with friends, I know everything about the art of invisible make-up and light cocktails! The Parisian really has a very distinct character: she’s surprising and interesting. And she’s so feminine! As for invitations, it a real task: each day Paris offers new exhibitions, previews and vernissages. With a Parisian, you absolutely have to be in the right place at the right time!

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