This week's blog comes to you this week via the high-speed train from Paris, France to Antwerp, Belgium. I'm on vacation this week in Europe where my girlfriend and I are getting a chance to visit with some close friends.
Although I've had the opportunity to travel to many different places over my lifetime (almost exclusively for business purposes), I've purposely shied away from going to Paris.
Parisians, I am told, are rude, they smoke like chimneys, smell as though they haven't bathed in a week, refuse to speak English (even if they do know the language), and the generally hold Americans in very low regard.
Paris was founded by the Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celts, in 250 BC, as a trading center. Today Paris is a large urban city with over 2 million inhabitants within the city limits but growing to over 11 million when including the surrounding suburban areas. Like most world metropolises, Paris is rich with history, diversity and culture. It is known throughout the world as the City of Light, the City of Love and the home of high fashion. With 42 million foreign tourists each year, it is the most visited city in the world.
A few days ago, after an overnight flight, we arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris early in the morning. The airport was bustling with hordes of people but the lone person at the information booth was so kind and polite and took extra time to give us directions to the train station (within the airport) and circled the transfer stops that we needed to use in order to get to our hotel on a map that she provided to us free of charge.
The underground Metro is Paris's answer to mass transportation and is an extremely convenient and efficient method to transverse the city. The trains are inexpensive, frequent, clean and safe.
For two days, we traveled about the city seeing sights, monuments, and museums. We ate at small alley bistros that we happened upon as we walked from one place to another.
The truly most amazing discovery of Paris was that Parisians are nothing like the reputation that surrounds them. The people of Paris are kind, talkative and generous. They did not appear to be unhygienic (even in close quarters of the Metro). They smiled often and were incredibly helpful when we asked for directions or dining recommendations. We often laughed together as we tried to communicate in broken French/English using hand signals more often than not.
In the mornings and evenings, I saw far more joggers and cyclists than smokers and I noticed that the city itself was incredibly clean and free of trash.
Other than my sore feet and legs (from all the walking), the last 48 hours have been fully of fun and amazement thanks in great part to the wonderful people I met along my journey.
As I now am leaving France for Belgium, I am now wondering just how the ill reputation of Parisians came about. Was it perhaps the work of century-old bad blood between the English and French? Was it a diabolical plot by the U.S. corporate media to keep Americans from traveling abroad? Was it just a misconception by stereotypical "ugly American" tourists who demand that the places they visit cater exclusively to them?
I'm not really sure how a reputation is earned or more importantly dispelled once it has become widely known. This is especially true when millions of people are involved covering trillions of day to day transactions such as it is in Paris.
Whether or not it is true, the perception certainly becomes reality.
Most brands are created because of perception, whether the reality is true or not. Perhaps you buy things or go places based on what your parents or friends bought or went. Is it reality or is it nostalgia? Will their experiences be yours? Why is it that you trust their opinions rather than your own experiences?
In a greater sense, what is your own reputation? What do people think about you as a person?...as a boss?...as a coworker?...as a parent?...as a friend?
What are the words that would describe you?
What if these descriptions aren't really you? How do change someone's perception?
What do you do each day to ensure that other people know the real you?...and more importantly will those other people speak up when they hear the contrary from others?
How Parisians got their bad reputation is truly beyond me...I'm just here to say that based on my own experiences, they weren't what their reputation made them out to be...and Parisians are alright by me.
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