Paris is a city I feel completely at home in, because of Bruno.
The French love dogs, and Mr Unfriendly breaks down cultural barriers. Each time we visit, Bruno gets us the best table, invites heart-to-heart conversations with strangers.
Once, he even secured a room with a terrace!
Traveling with Bruno thus provides me with Incognito Status– something I greatly prize, when in a city with rough elements.
Especially for the female traveller concerned about personal safety- you really want to blend in, and not stand out in Paris, because for starters, you could get mugged, very easily.
To achieve Incognito Status sans le chien?
Dress like a native.
From my observations, Parisian style can be generalised into 2 categories- androgynous or feminine. The feminine fashionista will stride across cobblestoned streets in heels, no matter the weather. Her skirt will either be narrow, or worn short and swingy. Her hair will be done to look, undone.
The androgynous girl wears the skinniest of jeans, or tailored trousers cropped just there. On her feet are ankle boots for the mild autumn weather, ballet flats/brogues, or a pair of ‘cool’ sneakers.
Both girls wear a lot of black, and clothes that fit well. Scarfs are part of the uniform, a habit shared with their men. Both carry themselves with a lot of nonchalance.
The French attitude towards the physical self is celebratory, embracing. It’s a sexy attitude, because it is one of confidence.
Nobody spoke to me in English this past weekend. Even the Chinese staff at the Japanese restaurant spoke to me in rapid French.
So did bewildered-looking tourists crossing the Seine. Excuse moi, Excuse moi!
Do I speak French? Non. Un peu. No. A little…Badly!
My husband’s asked me before, how I wandered around Les Marais and ordered edible lunch in a non-.English-speaking cafe.
I think some things are universal that don’t require actual linguistic ability. Polite behaviour– say please, excuse me, thank you, hello, goodbye, goodnight- goes a long way in effective communication and acceptance.
Showing a genuine interest, listening carefully, also counts.
Oui, bien, et toi?
(I nod away, affirming his blahblahblahblahblahs.)
Blahblahblahblah Chinois ou Japonais?
Non, non. Je suis Singaporean.
Pardon, Monsieur? Repetez s’il vous plait?
Vous etes ici pour le travail ou les vacances?
Ah! Eh… le travail.
Ah! Blahblahblahblahblah taxi?
Non, merci. Je marcherai! Au revoir!
So off I went.
Happily walking through the streets of Paris.
* Dress with the polka dots belong to the Polish designer/brand, Agaroszak. http://agaroszak.com