Fact and Fiction: A First Impression of Paris

Emma Bennett is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Paris, France.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Fact- If you tell anyone you’ll be traveling to Paris, expect to hear an opinion 95% of the time. He/she has either been there, knows someone who has been there, or presumes what Paris is like without ever stepping foot on European soil (possibly saw a movie filmed there).

Nonetheless, I have now been in Paris ten days and heard many things before I left, some good and some bad. Here is what I found to be fact and fiction thus far:

“Parisians are rude! Good luck!”

FICTION– I have found that this is heard more than any other rumor about Paris. So much in fact, I started to wonder if I would encounter a breed of humans who are apathetic towards anyone who breathes their air. But so far, I’ve found almost everyone to be very charming. Parisians don’t have the “every stranger is your friend” mindset, but it shouldn’t be perceived as insulting or unfriendly.

Opera, Paris, France, Bennett #1
Street performer in front of the Opera.

“Most people speak English there; you will hardly need to know French”

FACT–  But only in tourist areas. I’ve had no chance to practice my preschool-level French because the moment I say “Bonjour” Parisians generally hear my accent and proceed to speak high proficiency English. You don’t really need to know more than “bonjour”, “oui”, and “merci” to survive a one week vacation visiting all the tourist attractions. If you’re studying abroad? Start learning because you won’t always be getting an English version of the menu.

Washington Poste, Paris, France, Bennett, #2
Typical lunch in Paris.

“It is such a dirty city; definitely overrated.”

FICTION– Well… mostly. Like any other big city you cant presume that the streets will not be spotless. But from the other cities I’ve traveled to it’s fairly clean. What Paris lacks in litter it makes up in cigarette butts, though.

George V St., Paris, France, Bennett, #3
Beautiful sunset on George V St.

“Everyone has so much style, you’ll have to dress up just to get groceries.”

FACT– As an American, I’m used to wearing running shorts and an old t-shirt as my every day outfit. You can totally get away with this in the U.S…. in Paris? It’s like hanging a flashing sign around your neck saying: “Hey! I’m a tourist! Come and pickpocket me!” Parisians have a simplistic and incredible sense of style.

Rooftop Lafeyette Mall, Paris, France, Bennett #4
Rooftop at the Lafayette Mall.

“Go see the Eiffel Tower at night– way cooler than during the day!”

FACT– I checked it out the other night. The light show happens for the first five minutes of every hour and it’s absolutely stunning.

Tour de Eiffle, Paris, France, Bennett #5
Night time lights show at Tour de Eiffel.

Want to learn more about daily life in Paris? Check out: Discovering Paris:  The Life of a Student in the City of Lights”