What is the first thing that comes up when you think of the French language?
Sitting on a ski lift with two little kids, who tell me I have a funny French accent. When I replied "oh, I think you have a funny French accent too". They looked at me, eyes wide with astonishment and said "oh no, we couldn't have an accent, we come from Paris".
wow : ) so many people warn me about people from Paris :P It seems like the feeling of superiority starts young in those ones. Not meaning to offend anyone :) I'm just interesting in your experiences guys :p My for example is throwing me out of the shop because I asked in French how to get somewhere. Or being ignored because I used english and such :P I know millions of tourists etc but still. They make living on those tourists.
There are kind people in Paris, and some rude or unhelpful people in Paris surely, just like in any large city. Try New York city for the same experience. It has millions of tourists too.
My experience from several visits to Paris is that I have encountered a lot of friendly and helpful people (contrary to what the "conventional wisdom" says). I can't remember a bad experience, even given my minimal French. Possibly I don't remember having bad experiences (thus a biased recollection) b/c I just took it in stride (people will be people), didn't dwell on it, and moved on.
But as an American, and conscious of the bad rap Americans tourists get, I never ever started out asking anything in English. And yes, my French was pretty bad then. Sometimes people would reply in English, but I still tried to reply with some French. And, contrary to what one might assume, many people in Paris actually don't speak English.
One of my absolute best and most memorable experiences ever (a long story) came about through an extended though halting conversation with a young man who genuinely spoke no English. He was working at a place that I'm sure attracted a lot of tourists, and also, as he was young (20ish), I was twofold surprised that he spoke no English. (Of course I didn't show my surprise- that would have been very rude indeed!) But, a natural assumption could have been that he was simply unwilling to speak to me in English.
So, it's important not to make assumptions, and not to approach people with an air of entitlement (not saying you did, this is advice I would give to Americans!). We are guests in their city, and their country. Hope this makes sense from a practical point of view.
And they can have a great sense of humour. When I asked a security man ( not known in most countries for their sense of humour) should I take off a piece a jewellery, he said " ah non, Madam c'est du toc" and I replied, " ah non, Monsieur, qu'est-ce que tu dis, c'est de mon mari" et he " oui, oui Madam, c'est ce que J'ai dit, c'est du toc". And the two of us burst out laughing. ( du toc, means fake or rubbish).
I come from California, and "of course" I have no accent as compared to the rest of the US. LOL. Same I'm sure for people from other places in the US. I lived in another part of the US, visited California, and returned, and a colleague (also from California) said: Oh, you've gotten back your California accent.
In polish "łyżeczka" :D which is pronounced like whyshechca :D check in google translator :P