Take the Test: How Parisian Are You?

If You See This and Say, “Ah, the Countryside”...

April 3, 2012By David JaggardC'est Ironique!
…you might be a Parisian! (Apologies to Geoffroy Renardigne.)

After scoring in the top 35 percentile on Le Figaro’s index of “100 Things That All Parisians Should Do” two weeks ago, I felt, despite being non-French, very Parisian.

This started me thinking about the definition of the term: what are the characteristics, quirks and qualities that make a Parisian Parisian?

My wife Nancy had a lot of ideas about this as well, and together we came up with a list of 20 traits that we think epitomize the pith of Parisian-ness. You can think of it as a quiz — if the chaussure fits, score one point.

You’re a real Parisian if…

You wear a scarf in the summer (double points if you are a man).

You look both ways more carefully before using an ATM than before crossing the street.

You describe a restaurant you like by saying, “It’s not too bad,” and a restaurant you love by saying, “It’s not too bad” with a little more emphasis on “too.”

You are firmly convinced that everyone has the legally protected right to use any café’s toilets without ordering anything, but you would never, ever dare try it yourself.

You think nothing of using a urinal that is not blocked off from view of the café, restaurant, parade route, etc. (triple points if you are a woman).

You know that the Métro line that goes to Chemin Vert is Balard-Créteil, but you haven’t the dimmest idea what number it is, let alone what color it is on the RATP map.

You have argued with a ticket checker in the Métro (centuple points if you won).

When you hear on CNN that a baseball team “lost in the top of the ninth” you imagine a bunch of athletes getting fleeced in a stripper bar at Pigalle.

You have a favorite bum.

You know Miami better than you know Marseille.

The building you live in is worth more than the GDP of Laos, but still has communal toilets on the stairway landings.

The door to your apartment is made of steel plate with four locks and the walls on either side of it are made of crumbling 200-year-old plaster.

You sleep right through sirens and fistfights outside, but leap out of bed at the faintest sound of a drip from the apartment upstairs.

You work out at a gym that has ashtrays at either side of the entrance, and possibly on some of the older treadmill machines.

When someone asks you to call them “right after lunch” you wait until 4:00 p.m.

When your new love interest proposes “dinner and a movie,” you presume that he/she is asking you out for two separate dates.

You will cheerfully wait in line for 45 minutes to buy one scoop of ice cream, but complain bitterly if you have to wait more than three minutes for a bus.

You curse cyclists when you’re driving, pedestrians when you’re cycling, and drivers and cyclists when you’re walking.

You think nothing of jaywalking in front of oncoming emergency vehicles.

You have been insulted by French people in the provinces — not for being a foreigner, but for being Parisian.


0-4: You must have just cleared customs

5-9: You have been around a bit, albeit by double-decker bus

10-14: You are beginning to accrue some rue smarts

15-19: You can kiss my cheeks — you’re a Parisian!

20: Have you thought about running for mayor?

As a reward for the high scorers, I have made up a “Parisians” joke based on a classic, time-tested (and -worn) formula. Low scorers have to read it twice.

How many Parisians does it take to change a light bulb?


One to spend two-and-a-half hours searching through the hardware section of the BHV department store, which is the only place on the planet that sells the special kind of light bulb you need for this particular model of lamp;

One to spend those same two-and-a-half hours on hold trying to call the Ministry of Housing service for Fixtures, Consumables, Thermal Units and Plumbing (FCTUP) to request copies of the forms for deducting the price of the bulb from next year’s taxes;

One to go to the post office to send a registered letter to the condo management office notifying them of the change in the building’s electrical configuration;

One to take the burned-out bulb to the recycling drop-off point;

One to screw in the new bulb;

One to complain that light bulbs were brighter in the old days;

And one to argue that illumination is not the real issue here.


Reader Carol writes: “I’ve been to Paris 30 times and will be arriving in that fair city again next Thursday, but my score was ‘1’… for that scarf habit I picked up a couple years ago. A Tourist, with a capital T.”

Reader Barney Kirchoff writes: “I have a favorite bum, but she gets mad if I pat it in public. Does this make me a Parisian? Or a Roman?”

© 2012 Paris Update


An album of David Jaggard’s comic compositions is now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, for purchase (whole or track by track) on iTunes and Amazon, and on every other music downloading service in the known universe, under the title “Totally Unrelated.”

Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is available from Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.

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