As my one-month-in-Paris benchmark begins to creep up, I’ve begun to take note of certain aspects of Parisian lifestyle and culture that I’ve grown to love, and others that I’m not sure I’ll ever become quite fully accustomed to. And while I can guarantee you that you will never read me blogging about sitting down for a plate of esgargot, it’s still exciting to see myself, for the most part, gradually acclimating to all things
1. Walking — Love
One of the things I absolutely adore about Paris is it is a city where it is actually preferable to not own a car. This might seem like a baffling concept to us college kids stuck in Southern California, where freeways and traffic can be as much of a daily routine as coffee and vitamins, but the metro is that convenient. Not to mention, it is possible to pretty much walk anywhere in Paris, and this weekend, I did just that. I went everywhere from jogging to the Seine (dusting off the cobwebs collecting on my running shoes for the first time since my arrival) to walking to one of Paris’s two Chinatowns for some pho to exploring Montmartre, a fun neighborhood chockfull of quirky artists and quaint cafés.
Mom and Dad, this is where I had my portrait done way back when!
Montmartre is also home to the Sacre Coeur, which towered over the many tourists milling about, ice cream and DSLRs in hand.
Walking up the many flights of stairs leading to the Sacre Coeur
Especially since Paris has had amazing weather, walking a few miles here and there seems to go by quickly, as there is so much impressive architecture and hidden jewels to admire. One of the great things about wandering around is even when you’re not quite sure of your whereabouts (75% of the time), you will unexpectedly find a ton of things to go see, whether it be a picturesque Sunday market, a beautiful church, a small museum, or a flame-throwing dancer in front of the Notre Dame.
2. Inefficiency — Hate
Although I do not want to sound like an ugly American making sweeping generalizations about France as a whole, it seems as if no one in Paris is ever truly in a rush. Case and point: I just spent 20 minutes waiting in line at a grocery store to buy 3 folders for class. In my Sociology class, our teacher told us that the assumption of receiving quick and quality customer service is not something that should be expected, as it isn’t something that is as guaranteed as it is in America.
3. Small businesses — Love
One thing I noticed upon my arrival that I found both perplexing and intriguing was the sheer quantity of little stores that pop up everywhere in Paris. In the Montparnasse area, for example, there are over a hundred crêperies all next to each other on the same street. In America, restaurants like these would be struggling to stay alive, and they would most likely meet the unfortunate fate of closing down. Yet each of these charming, little stores that seem to only host one client at a time seems oblivious to the notion of competition and somehow stays open. Each store has its own unique character with endearing owners who take pride in their businesses, which I prefer over the larger department-like stores.
4. Objectification of (American) women — Hate, hate, hate!
No matter how hard you try, you will inevitably be picked out of the crowd as an American. And while I would love to be patriotic and take pride in my Americanness, doing so subjects you to incessant cat-calling, creepy men, and potentially dangerous situations. In fact, here in Paris, it is infinitely better to blend in than stand out. The one thing I don’t think I’ll ever become used to is the paranoia that I constantly possess when I walk around the city, especially alone. Having people yell obscenities at you in the street has grown more than weary, and having to constantly wonder if the man behind you is in fact coincidentally going in your same direction or following you has happened one too many times. Hopefully, however, as I spend more time in Paris and more allowance on Parisian clothing (sorry parents, but think of this as an investment in my safety), I will look less like a walking target.
5. Leisurely lifestyle — Love
In America, it often feels as if we are constantly working or on the move to get somewhere (read: too busy to enjoy the simple things in life). Here, on the other hand, there is nothing more enjoyable than a picnic spread in front of the Eiffel Tower or a book in hand at a nearby park. This might go hand in hand with why stores and restaurants are closed on both Sundays and Mondays, as well as why there is so much inefficiency, but alas, there lies the paradox.
6. Easy traveling — Love
Granted this is more a benefit of living in Europe in general and not solely just in France, but something I am definitely taking advantage of is how easy it is to travel within Europe. Flights are very inexpensive, making Prague, Copenhagen, Madrid, and Rome just at the tip of my fingers (all places I am about to travel to within the next couple of months).
7. The amount there is to do at night —Love
This could be interpreted as good or bad (good if you are a college student, bad if you are my loving mother). If you have the desire to do something every night, be it calm or crazy, you will be able to find something to meet your every wish. This truly is a city that never seems to sleep, and as the metro closes at 1:30 AM and reopens at 5:30 AM, many Parisians (and some daring, caffeinated study abroad students) find this to be an excuse to do exactly that—stay out till 5:30 AM. Though I have yet to catch the 5:30 home, boredom is not something that has arisen during my time here at night.
8. Coins —Hate
All I will say about the matter is this: is there really a need for so many coins (I’m talking one-cent, two-cent, five-cent—the list goes on—coins)? I don’t want them accumulating in my wallet, and trust me, the waiters don’t want them either, even as a tip.
9. French drivers —Hate
In the words of my French professor: “If I’m walking, I don’t obey the law. If I’m on my motorcycle, I don’t obey the law. If I’m driving, I might obey the law a little… but only because it’s a little more dangerous.” If you didn’t already gather, walking around in Paris is simultaneously confusing and life-threatening. Just when you think you have a green light, a Smart Car will jet by you blowing cigarette smoke in your face. One must be vigilant when getting around in Paris, as no one pays attention to the law (still on the fence is such laws even exist), and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how either vehicle or foot traffic moves.
The past month in Paris has flown by rapidly, and I only hope time slows down so I can get to experience the hundreds of other things accumulating on my Parisian Bucket List. Because before I know it, it will be time to jet back to the great ol’ United States of America.