So for those of you who may not have heard, a little over a week ago I moved to (rainy) Paris for a new adventure just the other side of the water from London. The river banks have been so excited about my arrival that they have burst and flooded but it’s nowhere near as dramatic as the news seems to be making it out to be. Also, there are conflicting news stories about a break out at Paris Zoo where 52 giant Baboons escaped and terrorised the streets of Paris. I didn’t see any and other news reports have stated that the one mother and two babies that escaped are now safely back at the Zoo. So perhaps don’t believe everything you read.
So what are the key things I learnt during my first seven days in Paris?
1. Everyone wears scarves
The French are known for their love of Fashion and Paris is called the fashion capital of the world. The current must have accessory for every fashionishta? A scarf. Forget dressing head to toe in designed labels, all anyone is going to be looking at is your scarf and the bigger the better. You know those days when you wish you could go to work with your duvet wrapped around you? Well in Paris it seems you can as I’m pretty sure that’s what some people are doing. This weekend I bought myself a starter-size scarf as I have felt let out all week and I want to know what all the fuss is about.
2. Everything is super-cool!
In Paris, one word you will hear the French say (which you will understand because they say it in English) is ‘super’ and ‘super-cool’. I don’t know why but they love the phrase so if your French vocabulary is limited like mine, you can add that to your list. You’re very welcome.
3. The French take bread very seriously
Most things in Paris are organic. The fruit and vegetables are fresh and haven’t been geneticaly modified or judged for whether they look the way we expect them to. What you get is the read deal, un-airbrushed and fresh products. Because of this, the long bread baguettes that are so often associated with french people, don’t contain any preservatives and therefore mean that the day after you buy it, it is as hard as a rock. So fresh bread daily is a must-have and the French aren’t concerned about having to line up outside the shop for an hour in order to get it. The same goes for other fresh products. They want it the second it is ready and come rain or come shine they will be queuing up around the block waiting for it. So it’s not just the British who are famous for their queuing, I’d say the French do more of it!
4. Responsible drinking is not a thing in France
Not only is booze cheap in France, but there doesn’t seem to be any rules around ‘drinking in moderation’ and retailers have to be sensible about what they sell. A box of 5 litres of wine (just under seven bottles) will set you back a mere £12 and some offlicenes will even acknowledge your alcoholism and encourage you further with a loyalty card. And points do indeed make prizes (and not free AA sessions).
5. Saying hello and goodbye is a must-do everywhere you go
When you walk in to a shop, the assistant will immediately try to make eye contact with you in order to say hello. It is considered rude if you don’t meet their gaze and say bonjour back to them. The same goes with when you leave a shop, you should make eye contact again and say au revoir. In restaurants this is different. When you walk in to a restaurant and the waiter meets your eyes and says hello, he isn’t being polite and just acknowledging your existence, he is multi tasking and asking what you want. So if you are looking for a table for dinner or drinks, the time to tell them this is when they say hello.
6. It’s not all frogs legs and escargo
I’m not a huge fan of French food (so it’s hilarious that I’ve moved here) but i’ve come to realise that you don’t have to eat the local cuisine all the time. The supermarkets sell pretty much everything you can get in England (in one way or another) and so when it comes to cooking at home, you don’t have to really worry. And when it comes to eating out, the places you tend to go when on holiday aren’t usually the same places you frequent when you live somewhere (I certainly didn’t eat in Leicester Square every night when I lived in London). So panic over, just because it’s Paris, doesn’t mean you have to smell like garlic every day (unless you want to).
7. Be careful how you say it, it might mean something different
Lots of French words are very similar depending on how you say them or the context within which you use them. For instance, most people who did French at school will know the word ‘Ferme’ which means ‘closed’ or ‘to close’ something. However, if you add the word the ‘le’ in front of it, ‘Le Ferme’ doesn’t mean ‘The Closed’, it means ‘The Farm’! This is a harmless example but there are certain things that if said wrong could land you in a lot of trouble or at least garner some very strange looks from people.
So there are 7 things I’ve learned in 7 days of living in Paris!