PARIS: A loving couple queues in front of a Parisian cafe. “For the brunch,” a waiter tells them, “I’ve got one table at 6 p.m.” That scene is depicted in one of 48 posters put up across the French capital in an outdoor exhibition that casts a tender and amused eye on the quirks of Paris and its inhabitants, whose reputation as grumpy complainers has almost become a badge of honor.
A woman on the phone running to her meditation class, a never-ending queue to get in a restaurant, a chockablock cafe terrace as a ray of sunshine appears ... All these feature in the exhibition.
“Yes, that’s Parisian life,” laughs Iverlene Worrell, a British tourist staring at a poster on the Champs-Elysees depicting the queueing couple.
“It gives a light, friendly kind of vibe,” adds Nicole Broomes, who is discovering Paris for the first time.
The illustrator of the posters is Kanako, an adoptive Parisian who has for years been drawing for mylittleparis.com, a popular blog about trends in the capital.
Far from targeting Parisians alone, the posters are translated into English so that tourists too can have a little chuckle at the expense of the French capital’s inhabitants.
Dee Hyde, an American teacher, stares at one drawing that depicts a man standing in front of a gigantic stall full of bread of every shape and size.
“Would you have any squash-sesame-coconut country bread left?” the man asks the baker.
“She [the baker] looks a little mad,” Hyde observes. “She doesn’t look so happy. If I was speaking English to her, she might look like that.”
Paris has long been a subject of endless fascination for foreigners, who view it as a city full of beautiful, elegant women, delicious eateries and quaint cafes.
As such, the French capital – the most visited city in the world – has been a source of inspiration for many authors.
“Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris” and “The Sweet Life in Paris” are just some of the books available on the capital.
The city has also gained a reputation for unfriendliness and rudeness – so much so that tourists are often taken aback and sometimes even need psychological help.
One Japanese psychiatrist practising in the French capital has coined a condition and called it the “Paris syndrome” for compatriots new to the city who arrive with a romantic, overblown image out of sync with reality – and suffer.
“Many Parisians take themselves a little too seriously,” says a suited-up Frenchman, gazing at a poster depicting a crowd massed around an incomprehensible work of art. “A bit of self-mockery does no harm.”
The exhibition is organized by Paris City Hall and the drawings have been put up on advertising hoardings at a time when most of the capital, and its businesses, is on holiday.
“It’s a display that has no aim, other than to make people smile,” said Paris City Hall spokesman Lionel Bordeaux. “It’s nice to be able to have some lightness, an amused and critical look at the lives we lead.”
The ‘Les Parisiens’ exhibition ends Aug. 28.