Last week, I was in Eastern Europe. I’m still mentally unpacking all of the beauty I saw and all of the beautiful people I met there. 

But getting there…was not so pretty.

Specifically, Paris.

When I saw our flight itinerary and realized we were going to be flying through Paris both coming and going, I groaned with missed opportunity. How could one land in Paris and never see anything but the inside of the airport? It just wasn’t right.

However, the airport staff, and the airport itself, assured me that we missed nothing.

Our flight to Paris began in Atlanta at 4:45pm eastern, 3:45pm central. It ended at 6:00am Paris time, which was 11:00pm central, meaning that it was *not quite* my normal bedtime yet. Our seven hours of lost time was exactly our seven hours of should-have-been sleep. Which was quite disorienting. 

We were herded in line with a bunch of people to go through French Security, which I wasn’t expecting, as we were just going from one flight to another. We had literally just walked off a secure airplane but apparently that’s enough time to get naughty enough to need to be subjected to a full body cavity search. 

I did not get a full body cavity search. But I might have preferred it.

My friend Kelly was in front of me, so I followed her lead as she followed the lead of those in front of her (security instructions are difficult to read in French.) I put my locked carry-on on the belt, then I put my camera bag on the belt, then I took off my watch and put it in a tray. Kelly walked through the scanny machine. As I glanced over to see if it was my turn, the blond haired whatever-the-French-version-of-TSA lady landed her icy stare on me. 

She was on the other side of the conveyor belt and she pointed to my camera bag and started speaking rapid fire French. Or maybe rapid missile French. Whatever it was it definitely didn’t sound friendly.

I did the wide-eyed dumb American stare and head shake and murmured something annoying like “What was that?”

She switched to thick English. And pointed to my camera bag. 

“Any laptop? Tablet?!”


She looked at me with hatred and suspicion and downright disbelief.



She shoved it through with a huff.

I walked toward the X-ray machine. 

As I got to it, the luggage scanner machine started beeping and Kelly’s carry-on came backwards on the belt. Another angry French woman started yelling.

“Whose bag is this? There’s a Laptop in it!! Must be taken out!!”

“Oh, it’s my friend Kelly’s. She’s already over there. KELLY! Come back!!”

As Kelly came back and fished her key out, I realized I should probably do the same. Because there wasn’t a laptop or tablet in my camera backpack, but there was a laptop in my locked carry-on.


So we both unlocked our cases and began pulling our laptops out.

Kelly put hers in the bin and all was fine.

But oh.

When Angry French Officette Number One saw me working at my bag, she descended upon me with the fury of the Frenchmen who shoved Marie Antoinette under the guillotine.


“YOU said no! You said you didn’t have a laptop!”

“You were asking about that bag and I wasn’t thinking about this bag. I’m sorry.”

My mistake was the last word. 

She was now chopping off all the gentry’s heads.

“SORRY. You SORRY, huh? SORRY!! No. Take bag! Go stand over there!”


I was confused and hesitated.

“OVER THERE!! You think about what you have done!!”

She shoved my stuff at me and pointed me toward a bench in between the two lines.

I walked three steps backward and waited for my turn to be burned at stake, pondering poor Joan of Arc, who led the French Army to an impossible victory and they still burned that poor teenager on a woodpile. She prob had a laptop in her carry-on, too.

Kelly came and stood by me, a loyal fellow enemy of the state to the end. She whispered to me, “Ignore her. She’s just an angry person. It’s not your fault.

After a few people went by and a few glares in my direction, she shoved a few bins, made room for my stuff, and angrily waved me back.

I put my bags back on the belt, NOT saying I was sorry, NOT making eye contact, as she berated me repeatedly in her loud angry rant.

“You remember now? How about now?? YOU REMEMBER NOW YOU HAVE A LAPTOP??”


And I nearly sprinted through the X-Ray machine before she could lock me up in Bastille.


We wound our way through the insanely circuitous airport and found out we had to ride a shuttle to our next gate. We waited for the shuttle for five minutes, and then had a ridiculous nearly-hour-long shuttle ride, as our gate was the previous gate and we had to do the full circle of the monstrosity to get back to it.

During this ride, we were all laughing and enjoying the ridiculous situations I seem to find myself in. Perhaps a bit loudly, we were discussing and laughing about Angry French Officette Number One. There were a few quiet, sullen looking people on the other side of the bus. None of them seemed to be paying us any attention, but I did observe that we were being much more interactive and loud than anyone else.

As an older French lady hobbled between us to get off the bus, she spat one word at us with venom.

I don’t know what the word was (alas, my Googling didn’t help either) but I gathered the meaning by the hateful undertone in which it was delivered.

And I found myself humbled. Not by Angry French Officette Number One, but by the  quiet old lady.

And swore from then on to be subdued, mature, European Rachel.

(Which lasted approximately 1 day.)

(Good thing Eastern Europeans seemed to love me for who I was.)

On the way back through Paris, it all went wrong again.

We had just come from the Croatia airport, where my friend Nikki left a water bottle in her bag. The security man politely and kindly said, “Excuse me, but you seem to have left a water bottle in your bag. Could you please remove it?” 

I rolled my eyes at how easy her life was.

But the second we stepped literal foot into Paris, we got screamed at. For stepping off the line on which we were supposed to walk from the plane to the terminal.

When we arrived at hell-also-known-as-French-Security again, with much fear and trembling of running into my friend because she certainly would remember me nine days later (I dreamed of the second round of “YOU STILL SORRY?? YOU REMEMBER NOW?? HOW ABOUT NOW!?”)  But mercifully we didn’t see her, and mercifully (for me) it was Nikki that got screamed at this time.

They had the conveyor belt running too fast and the guy in front of me took too long to get his things off. Everyone’s bins started jackknifing and watches and iPads were about to start flying.


But somehow, even though Nikki was behind me, this was all her fault.

Angry French Officette Number Three started screaming “Your valise!! YOUR VALEEEESE!!  YOU!!! Take your valise off NOW!!”


At that moment, or maybe it was after it took us an hour and forty five minutes (and 10,000 steps and two shuttle rides and two sets of incorrect directions by unhelpful French Airline Employees) to find our gate, or after we had a three hour layover in which we were going to get lunch but by the time we found our gate they were already boarding so we didn’t even get a bottle of water, or maybe it was when two out of three of us got pulled from the boarding line and it looked like we weren’t going to get to fly but they just wanted to do another security interrogation on us…whenever it was, Nikki and I made a blood oath that we would never visit Paris, never fly through Paris, nay, never meet a Parisian again, if we could help it. 

Sure, they may have cool buildings. But they’re not worth the Angry French. Pictures of the Eiffel Tower will do just fine for us.

11 thoughts on “The Problem With Paris.

  1. It is NOT you who does not fit in Paris – I live in Denmark and the French are notorious for their impoliteness towards anyone not French or French speaking. They will literally pretend to not understand English just to make you feel stupid even if they understand fine. You must be prepared for the rude behavior as a part of the entertainment of your holiday experience when going to France. We prefer going to Spain instead :-)

  2. Oh, I cringed at reading this! I am a rule keeper. I despise being fussed at. Can’t imagine being publicly shamed! I don’t speak French. Yep, the pictures and google earth will suffice. That and Epcot. I’ve been to France there a few times and it was lovely.

  3. This was the best, most amazing trip bookended by the worst, most unkind individuals in the Paris airport: I was more than happy to shake their dust off of my feet.

  4. We flew through France on our trip to Germany in the fall but it was a different airport. The people were pretty nice there. Must be living in Paris that makes those people grumpy! Get out in the countryside and get some fresh air, maybe all ya’ll grumpy Paris people will feel better.
    One of my brothers lives in Germany and we visit regularly. They’re way out in the countryside and the people there are just delightful. Everyone in their village gets a huge kick out of having an American living among them.

  5. I had a very similar experience when I visited Paris in high school, or more specifically as I was leaving Paris to come home. It was horrible. Also, at the Louvre, our British tour guide almost got into a fisticuffs with a guard/ security guy while we were standing in line. Apparently, their policy for how school groups checked in had changed recently, and they didn’t appreciate our guide’s questions about it. I, too, have no desire to return. However, should you ever go to Ireland, I’ll totally be your travel buddy.

  6. Its not just you. I hate paris airport. we flew thru it once and i decided never again. very impatient people, employees who treat you like they are doing you a favor by showing up for work.. No thank you… ill take Amsterdam, London or Frankfurt anytime… BUT NOT PARIS.

  7. I’m sitting in the Paris airport right now reading this :) So far I’ve helped 2 non-English speakers navigate this place and haven’t been yelled at….yet!

  8. Oh for goodness sakes! So sorry you had to deal with those meanies. I will have to say that I’m taking this as a warning to myself. I see you as a calm, chill, and quite subdued person. So if you got yelled at, I’m sure to be sent to the chopping block for sure. I have a bit of a similar story when a friend and I traveled to London. We were on a tour bus and were comfortablely sitting down when we saw an elderly couple get on. We got up and gave them our seats. Although we were very willing to give up our seats, we also had to give up the view outside to actually see the sights. To pass the time, we just chatted with each other. After the tour was over the elderly couple stood up, looked us in the eyes, and I fully expected a grateful sentiment , yet we received a verbal thrashing for “ruining their tour” because we were talking. And don’t get me started on subway etiquette! We simply did not fit in.

  9. I probably would have cried if that happened to me!

    I went on school trip to France in high school and all of us, who were very well behaved (for high schoolers), were SHOCKED at how rude Parisians were. We were commenting on it to our British tour guide, and he laughed and said the British have a saying, “France is such a beautiful country. Too bad the French live there.”

  10. Wow that is too bad that they were so rude! You’d think they would be nice to people visiting their country! Love the Monty Python gifs!

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