Officially, BHV (Bazar de L’Hotel de Ville) is an upscale department store in Paris, often visited by tourists who want to see how a Parisian department store compares with the experience back home. (The answer: quite well, merci beaucoup).
Unofficially, BHV is something far more unique and important: when you need something, and you don’t know where to find it, BHV is the first place you go…and they probably have it.
For expatriates, fresh from baggage claim, struggling to learn a few phrases in French and get the electricity turned on, stumbling all over town for a corkscrew, coffee cup, or oscillating fan (all necessities in Paris, by the way) BHV is a lifesaver.
The store in the Marais offers artisan olive oils, fine wines, bed linens, books, notebooks, as well as men’s and women’s clothing, and innumerable household items that you don’t really think about until you don’t have them.
Customer service, like many places in Paris, can move at the pace of an escargot, but that simply requires a little patience in order to gain a fresh perspective: when the BHV sales clerk takes twenty minutes with the octogenarian in line in front of you to find her just the right diary for her nephew in Normandy, you can rest assured that same clerk will take the same amount of time with you to get you exactly what you need. So the fatigue at waiting is buffered by the care that is taken.
It’s that way very often in Paris, and, as a visitor from another country where it’s all about how fast you can get things done–regardless of how impersonally that same transaction can be done–you’re just going to have to dial it back, bring it down a notch, and ease into this way of doing things.
It’s all about attention to detail, mutual respect, and of course, more than a little patience.
Bon courage, mon ami.
- paris unofficial