“Parisians are rude” is one of the oldest cliches in the book – and yet it seems to persevere. Whenever I am showing my clients around town I try to parse Paris-as-modern-city from Parisians-in-general. There are certain things that are the same in all cities, and walking speeds in Paris are no different. I hope this short article gives visitors to Paris some insight into our city, but also proves to be a good guide for other cities they might visit.
For people who know where they are going, are in a routine, and have scheduled their appointments for the day in such a way that requires fast movement, this is the standard speed. It may seem to be breakneck to most. These people are frequently listening to music via headphones or talking on the phone. They are in enough shape to maintain a fast walk without huffing. If you are aware of these people around you, move aside, usually closer to the wall or the building so they can pass on the outside (the ‘fast lane’ is on the left).
A significant downgrade from business-as-usual speed, dog walking speed is a few notches north of a stroll. It still signifies that you know where you are heading and are not interested in a leisurely stroll. Tourists using their map apps feel comfortable walking at this speed, even through GPS is not as exact within Paris proper.
Sometimes used by dog walkers who wish to take a bit more relaxed of a pace, stroll speed is used most frequently by tourists on “the Champs” (le Champs d’Elysee) this is the “take everything in and take 1000 photos” speed. The problem of “rudeness” presents itself here because people are using all 3 speeds on many Parisian streets but especially on large boulevards like Le Champs. If you are able to visualize the wide sidewalk as a more chaotic, multi-speed, multi-directional road (like roads in India, Nigeria, or the Philippines), you will be highly alert as you walk and then you won’t remark about how “rude” Parisians are because you are dead-stopped in the middle of this “freeway” and people bump into you and then say nothing as they speed on (though not a few say “excusez-moi” the irony of Americans saying the French are impolite is rich given how much more formal the French are than Americans. I still often suppress a laugh when any elderly gentleman addresses me as “monsieur”).
So, my dear visitors, when visiting Paris and enjoying our sites, remember to be aware of where you are and where you are going and you won’t find any “rude Parisians,” when it comes to walking, anyway :-)