Because I am what my family calls the Queen of Guidebooks, I couldn't resist this "Paris Survival Kit" I bought in a Paris museum recently, while on the prowl for something completely different. Isn't it it cute? Look how there's even a little fake hole at the top for the display rack.
I bought it because of the genuine information I found in it, such as a few places to eat, work, or send visitors; also because it's fun to see how real Parisians look at themselves– this book is aimed at them. The only foreigners to get their own chapter in the book are Americans. But don't be flattered! Despite the scholarly-looking preface from the (bogus) Harvard professor John P. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D (the real author got it right in having him dateline it Cape Cod, July 2015), the book's Americans are there strictly to be avoided.
How do you learn to identify (and avoid) Americans in Paris?
1) The American in Paris smiles.
This physiognomic particularity should warn you, since in Paris no one ever smiles. (see Gueule [attitude], p. 64)
2) The American in Paris is loud
You won't even have to bother looking around the restaurant to identify the Americans who have infiltrated the clientele. The background noise will tell you quite enough. Moreover, the American in Paris is the only person to call the waiter "Garçon," even when it's a waitress.
3) The American in Paris lives in an amusement park.
For the expat American, "Paris is a moveable feast," as Hemingway wrote, which shows you how completely he got things wrong. When you explain that your Paris life is nothing but an exhausting series of underground journeys, interminable office hours, and dreary evenings, the American in Paris laughs! Because as for him, he is having a great time going out, eating and drinking!
4. The American in Paris lives on the Île Saint-Louis.
It's not even an exaggeration to say that NO ONE but Americans is on the Île Saint-Louis. Our American– an upper manager in a multinational company, a gallery owner endemic to the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, or perhaps a journalist for CNN–can therefore well afford to hire you as a private tutor of the French language.
The seventh arrondissement, especially buildings with a view of the Eiffel Tower, are also prized by members of the American upper class [in English in the original], who choose to live there in the hopes of making their friends back home jealous with their Facebook photos.
The Fantasy of the "True Paris"
A serious mental disorder affects the American in Paris: the Fantasy of the "True Paris," which is a sort of Stendhal Syndrome in reverse. The American Bohemian in Paris–possibly a jazz musician, a painter at Place du Tertre, a Yin Yoga teacher, a waiter at Breakfast in America, or another kind of artiste–has abandoned a job in a huge agrofood business to live simply, devoted to the discovery of the "True Paris."
What is the True Paris? It's a complex mixture of clichés that groups together the films of Jean-Luc Godard, perfume ads, Bateaux-Mouches tourist brochures, and of course scenes from the movie Amélie. The American in Paris, therefore, must struggle every day to be convinced that Paris resembles this fantasy.
Note: The American in Paris (fifty- to sixty-year-olds version) is the only person who still believes in existentialism and that Rive Gauche cellars are still wild places.