Living in a new city is exhilarating. Every day is a new adventure whether you’re trying to figure out the quickest route to work or discovering les petit trucs that makes the city unique. I’ve visited Paris a few times before, but to really know a city one needs to forget about all prior idealistic notions, embrace the every day mundanities and live like a local. The following are several observations I have made during the last 11 days.
1. Rubbish bins are collected every day. Not just once a week – Every. Single. Day! And in my area, this can happen any time between 5am and 7am. Les éboueurs seem to actively try and wake the entire neighbourhood in the process. This results in me waking up to the sound of crashing lids and smashing bottles at least once a night. I understand now why the French drink so much wine. To help them sleep through the night!
2. Green man means go for both pedestrians and cars alike. In Ireland, once the little green man appears you can pretty much be guaranteed that as a pedestrian you have full legal rights to cross the road without being knocked over. However, being a piéton in Paris is a bit like being a bowling pin, never knowing whether you’ll be hit or narrowly missed. Not only do you share the pavement with mopeds but the little green man seems to be a suggestion rather than a rule. Cars can, and will, drive right in front of you as you cautiously attempt to traversez la rue.
3. Sunday is a day of rest. Absolutely everything is closed, unless you venture into busy areas like the Champs Elysées. The Parisians really do value their time off work. There will be a few clothes shops and boulangeries open, you just need to know where to find them. I went on a hunt last Sunday but didn’t get too far as I got stuck in the middle of the pro heterosexual marriage demonstration. There is rarely a Monoprix or Casino (think Supervalu & Superquinn!) ouvert, so unless you want to pay extortionate prices for bread and other staples, make sure you have enough food to last you till Monday morning!
4. Everyone is very polite. Even those people begging for argent ou un ticket restaurant on the RER in the mornings. The youths hanging around Luas stops asking for spare change could learn a lot from the Parisians. Maybe I’m not fully accustomed to the culture yet, but there is no harassing commuters for money. They simply ask and then thank you for your attention while moving onto the next carriage – Je vous remercie de votre attention. I almost feel like saying, no thank you!
5. Parisian women live up to their stereotype. Most are very glamorous with beautiful clothes and accessories. I hate them all!! They also have very good taste – C’est très jolie, ton sac! – I have been asked a few times where I have got my pretty bag and love their reaction when I tell them Ireland! I could definitely live permanently in a culture that views applying lipstick and mascara as a necessity before heading to the corner shop. Also, people actually walk around carrying baguettes and eat them whole sans beurre on the metro.. I’ve seen them do it!
6. Smart cars are everywhere. And everytime I see one, I regret turning down my mum’s offer of buying me one years ago. Then I remember that cool in Paris is not cool or practical in Ireland!
7. English is spoken contrary to popular belief but usually by a boulanger‘s daughter showing off or an annoying Parisian looking to practise his English on a night out. If they detect the slightest hint of a foreign accent, they pounce on you and use you as a free lesson. C’est vrai! I’ve been lucky that quand je parle, French is spoken back to me. In addition, when in a group of both French & English speakers and someone asks for un café, either an americano or a white coffee is brought to the table. This doesn’t always happen, but generally means we need to stress the word petit or simply un espresso s’il vous plait! It’s frustrating as a few of us simply believe that we are locals already and should be treated as such 😉
8. Cups are very small. This is because coffees are tiny. Even a café au lait is intended to be gone in a few sips. As a girl who loves her tea, one of the first things I did was buy myself a lovely big green mug. Best purchase ever… until I invested in my new C’est Mon Mug mug yesterday! A girl can never have too many mugs. Especially in Paris where a cup is akin to a shot glass! FYI tea plus a madeleine or two is absolute heaven.
9. Marks and Spencers are everywhere! And surprisingly, it is cheaper than home. Lots of items we can get for little to nothing on clearance though as they wouldn’t be typical items that Parisians would include in their diet, such as mince pies! Miam miam!
10. There are an abundance of shops with poorly spelled English names. Spot the ‘cool’ shop with the spelling mistake/grammatical error is my new favourite game. This one was one of my favourites – After Pant’s what?
This one made me miss home a little bit…
Another thing I should have added is that a typical lecture lasts 3 hours and they are soooooo exhausting! But I won’t as that would be 11 things I’ve learned in Paris so far, now wouldn’t it?!