Against Type

amy alkon by Gregg SutterBucking against that shopworn stereotype that all French people are rude, writer Amy Alkon invokes a Parisian habit in her book on how to be nicer to people. Ironic, no?

It’s also nice to do as they do in Paris, where passing strangers are likely to greet each other. You’ll walk through the courtyard of a building and cross paths with a woman you for sure will never see again, and she’ll say, “Bonjour, madame,” and you will say it back to her. It’s really nice. It’s this little moment in which you’re connected to somebody. They’ve saluted your existence.


After experiencing this in France, I started greeting people everywhere—saying ho to coffee shop and takeout cashiersinstead of just giving my order, and smiling and saying good morning to passersby. In time, I came to realize that a stranger is just someone you have yet to treat like a neighbor and thast a friendly hello is shorthand for the French phrase, “Ne seriez-vous pas nom voisin?” Or, as Mr. Rogers used to put it, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Amy’s new book, Good Manners for People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, has just been published by the St. Martin’s Griffin imprint. For some of the best quotes from the book, click here.

Photo by Gregg Sutter

One Response to “Against Type”

  1. Comment by Chipkins | 07/06/14 at 10:39 pm

    Over the years I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Paris and have NOT experienced the stereotypical French rudeness. I have found the citizens of that fair city to be as polite and mannerly as any other large city. They pop up on the bus to offer a seat to the elderly, infirm or pregnant; will grab the other end of a stroller to help someone up and down stairs, and a thousand other small courtesies. They might do it without a smile (Americans are a smiling nation) but certainly cannot be faulted for that.

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