I do not speak French, but as long-time readers of my blog are aware, I can put together a quarter-assed attempt at many things, and in speaking French I can mash together stock phrases, scraps of other people's discarded French, some high school Latin, and some knowledge of Indo-European etymology to make a garbage omelet that is not French but can, in very limited quantity, be used in place of French.
In Switzerland, this worked. I would address a waiter and say “Un plat petit pour mademoiselle, c'il vous plait” and the waiter would promptly set a small plate before Katara, then age 14 months.
In Paris, when I tried the same thing, it did not work at all. The Parisians produced no plates. The waiter would look at me blankly, and instead of a plate they would produce a honking noise from their nose. In Paris, I spoke English or nothing.
Another thing that worked in Switzerland but not in Paris: my Parisian host asked what I would particularly like to do while I was in Paris. I said I would particularly like to visit a restaurant that served horse meat. He said he believed people no longer ate horse meat and that it would be nearly impossible to find a restaurant that served it. In Lausanne I found horse meat on the menu without even making an effort.
Conspiracy theorists of the Internet: How are these related?
Horse meat is pretty good. Or at least, it is in Switzerland. But maybe the French hoard all the best horse meat for themselves.