People can be loud, annoying, crowd your favourite neighbourhoods, buy the last sandwich when you’re next in line, step on your toes or accidentally photobomb your best shot.
Some people hate places with people. My in-laws always say “人们太多!” (“Too many people!”) when they talk about China and many Canadians’ dream holiday spot seems to be “as far away from civilization as possible,” e.g. in a lakeside cottage deep into the woods.
I grew up in an apartment building in the city centre and I have a lot of experience with crowded cities and countries—China, Brazil, Mexico, South-East Asia, etc. I’m also familiar with places with low population density and I’ve stayed in fairly remote small towns when travelling.
I’m team “I’d rather live around other people.” Life in society comes with challenges but I’m more comfortable surrounded by millions of strangers than surrounded by trees, empty spaces and wild animals.
Nonetheless, I was a bit wary of Paris in the summer. The months of July and August are prime tourist season in one of the most popular destinations in Europe and one of the most famous in the world. Keep in mind that Paris “intra muros,” i.e. the downtown core, is fairly compact—a tour bus can easily clog the two “top” streets in the Latin Quarter.
It wasn’t so bad after all. The main sights can get very busy—don’t try to get into the Louvre on free admission night…—but I did find it was also easy to escape from the crowd.
That said, I discovered two unexpected pet peeves—trottinettes and selfie addicts.
Riding a trottinette, or more exactly renting an electric scooter, is the latest trend in Paris. You can use an app to track down a nearby trottinette and rent it for a few minutes, an hour or more with companies like Bird, Lime, Dott, etc.
Two-wheelers are a huge, fast-growing market and I had read complaints on social media about careless users. Even the government is trying to regulate this new activity—speed limit, use on city sidewalks, etc. To be honest, I thought it was yet another local, hipster issue until I started walking around Paris. These damn electric scooters are everywhere—mostly on sidewalks, either waiting to be picked up or passing you at full speed. The Seine is an unofficial electric scooter cemetery, there are plenty of mud-covered trottinettes fished out of the water resting on the banks of the river. And beware of new riders who can’t control what is essentially a motorized vehicle…
My second pet peeve was people taking selfies in museums—not only it’s completely pointless to take pictures of yourself in front of every single famous painting but these selfie addicts get irrationally angry when other visitors just want to… well, you know, see the painting. At the Musée d’Orsay, we couldn’t get anywhere close to Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait because of idiots taking selfies in front of it.
Other than that, Parisians were strangely patient and accommodating, even in tourist places in high season, some of them completely oblivious to international travellers, some of them part of the “industry” and all of them providing an interesting perspective.
Here are some of the people of Paris, locals and tourists!