Abby Melton is a student at the University of Alabama and an ISA Featured Blogger. Abby is currently studying abroad with ISA in Paris, France.
Salut! Although I’ve only been in France for four weeks now, I’ve gotten used to some of the quirks of Parisian life. As I’ve wandered the Métro and walked around some of the arrondissements, I’ve found a few things about Paris that I truly enjoy and find worth my while, not only as an exchange student but also as a girl living in Paris:
The French discuss a panorama of topics: politics, gay marriage, religion, and sex, to name a few. They’re very generous with their opinions and why they hold them. In another sense, they’re also openly (and notoriously) romantic, as it’s not unusual to see couples making out, or a girlfriend sitting in her boyfriend’s lap. However, it’s taboo to speak of money and wealth, just as it’s taboo to see anything further than making out in public.
For myself and many other students, this is a must if you’re coming to Paris and will be using the Métro. Although per month, it’s cheaper to use two tickets or less per day (of single-use tickets, which are called T+ Tickets, and purchased in a carnet of up to ten), I usually use the Métro more than that. A Navigo is fairly easy to get, and totals about sixty-five euros per month. To use, just swipe in the Métro and voilà!
Chilling on the Seine
A lot of French youth come to the banks of the Seine, especially near Notre Dame, in the late afternoon. Some bring baguettes, cheese, beer or wine, and usually a bunch of friends; it’s been a little cold this February, so I haven’t seen too many people. But most of the time, you can hear some musicians nearby playing gypsy-jazz or some other sort.
Literally, “the fly boats,” take you on a Seine-based tour of Paris. They hit the high notes, like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but they’re great for getting a feel of Paris’s layout. Just make sure to bundle up, especially if you’re taking a night tour; but, it might be worth it—you get to see the Eiffel Tour light up for ten minutes on the hour after sunset, which is quite a glimmering sight.
It’s very habitual to see someone crouched in front of any given store window, examining the prices of displayed items. These prices are mounted everywhere—cheese shops, boutiques “de la mode,” and even pet stores. To me, this is a very important tenet of Parisian shopping: it keeps unwanted “loitering” in stores, and also lets me know which stores I can (afford to) enter.
The Parisian Smile
Parisians aren’t known especially for their smiles, but when they do smile, it’s generally gracious, warm and sincere. Just make sure their intention is right! Usually smiling in the Métro is somewhat frowned upon; it’s normally considered forward and unusual, especially between men and women. Take it from me, who learned this a little too late.
I (and of course, everyone else) love seeing the main landmarks such as Musée d’Orsay, La Sorbonne and Les Invalides. However, in my own arrondissement—where I often wander and get crazy lost—I’ve found a church that’s near my apartment (called Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Grenelle, really beautiful). Importantly, its steeple is tall enough so that as long as I’m remotely near, I can use it as a North Star of sorts.
A Good Coat
I know this isn’t a Parisian truc, but having a thick, multi-pocketed coat has been my saving grace. Notably, I’d bring one that has zippers on the pockets for your Navigo, euros and other things. Zippers and enclosures crucial on the crowded Métro, where pickpockets reach straight into your own pocket or purse—true story. However, especially on those cold and windy weekends, I go for my coat when I don’t want to bring my purse to the bar (lessening the chance of my valuables getting stolen).
Although it was hard to get used to, I’m now acclimated with the disregard of the French at work. Hah! Just kidding. But I’m now used to seeing my waiter smoking a cigarette outside for twenty minutes, hard at work. Total non-event.
Bountiful with food and people, these are mostly bustling on Sundays until early afternoon. They’re everywhere in the city, selling everything from whole chickens to knitted hats to second-hand books. Also vending fresh flowers, vegetables, fruits, pastries, bread—you name it! And it’s all at a market near you.
- How to Seem More Parisian (ISA Student Blog)