Paris: City of Light

Foreigners View of Parisians


Parisian Salons
 ~Salons of   Enlightenment
 ~Madame de   Stäel         
~Salons of the   Restoration
 ~The Salons of   Victor Hugo

Influence of Printed Materials
 ~Pre-Revolutionary   Timeline
 ~Post-Revolutionary   Timeline


Defining the Parisians
 ~Parisians Viewed   by Foreigners
 ~Parisians   Viewed by   Themselves
 ~Paris Fashion




Who is the 'typical' Parisian? What is so special about them? What gives them that distinguished Parisian air...that je ne sais quoi?


Many visitors to Paris during the 1830's and 40's often posed the same questions. Foreigners admired the Parisian characteristics and way of life, which eventually came to define the 'typical' Parisian. At this time Paris was not only the most prosperous city in Europe, but also the world. The 'remarkable people' that inhabited this cosmopolitan city were all very diverse and came from a variety of different nations, classes, and creeds.

However, the Parisian image held by foreigners was very confined. It was not a panoramic view of all society, but rather a narrow sliver of the elite. When visitors spoke of the Parisians, they usually implied people of the upper classes, meaning either aristocrats or upper class bourgeoisie. The foreign visitors who wrote memoires or travel guides were wealthy, therefore the people they associated with during their stay in Paris were of the same social stature. These social circles frequented salons, soirées, the opéra, shops, and the famous Parisian gardens. Hence, their descriptions of Paris and the Parisians showed little emphasis on the lower classes that inhabited the city. Ironically, these lower classes were the overwhelming majority of the population, and one could argue that they were the 'typical' Parisians. However, when seen on the streets they were most often overlooked and disregarded as merely destitute, criminal delinquents, or wretched prostitutes. Thus, be aware that in this section when I describe the 'typical' Parisian, it is a narrow view of the upper class Parisian population.


Click here for examples of Foreigners descriptions of 'typical' Parisians

Click here to read about how Parisian Women were viewed