Moving to Paris provides you with literally 1000′s of blogs written by Anglos about their experiences, but have you ever wondered what an actual Parisian wants you to know about living in France? Luckily Deb, who blogs at Sixtine and The Little Things and is mum to beautiful Sixtine Charlotte, understands both a.) what it’s like to be an expat and b.) what Parisians think because she use to be one. Without further adieu, Deb’s 10 things you should know before moving to Paris.
1.) Learn (some) French. Do take the time to learn a few phrases beforehand, and then take a few classes to get you started. Yes, it is true, English is the most widely used language in the world. That doesn’t mean everyone speaks it well. Besides, French people love their language and they will appreciate your efforts to speak it.
2.) Prepare yourself. French bureaucracy is…ermm…a pain! It is long and tedious to get anything done so make sure to bring all the paperwork you need and ask questions!
3.) Don’t take offense. We don’t smile at everyone and seem rather cold. Just like in any other big city French people are not easy to make friend with. But fear not, once you are included in their circle of friends, it will last forever.
4.) Be polite! Say “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “Aurevoir” when you enter shops, restaurants and other places. It will take you far!
5.) Women: forget the idea of the handsome, romantic French man. I haven’t dated the whole country but I can tell you one thing, most men aren’t! In fact, you will be surprised (shocked?) to realize that they whistle, hold your hand, harass you to get your number and have no shame. They aren’t all like that, let’s not make generalities, but there are an awful lot of them…The others, the one you will meet with friends, at work or anywhere else should be all right! Good luck!
6.) Paris, the ultimate fashion destination? Perhaps…one thing to keep in mind, our casual is a little more dressy than most tourist attires. If you want to go unnoticed, don’t wear the usual athletic shoes, white socks, short shorts, cap, backpack, and American flag. Try do dress up a wee bit more!
7.) If you come to Paris as a family, know that the French parenting style differ from yours. It is not better, it is just different. So people might make a few comments about your parenting, again, don’t take it personally. Just tell them “occupez-vous donc de vos affaires!” (mind your own business!).
8.) Food! Do I need say more? It is not a myth, French people love good food and meals are sacred! It starts at a very early age in school and I suggest you read French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon to get a better idea (it is written by an American so it is objective!). We stay a lot longer at the table to eat, and we usually share our meals rather than eat by ourselves. Make sure to try whatever is put in front of you if you are invited as we would take offense at a “no, thank you.”
9.) Public transportation are popular in Paris for two reasons: it is easier and cheaper to get around than using a car. The Métro, RER, buses and trains will take you anywhere you need to go! Get yourself a pocket map and explore the streets of Paris without the stress of parking space/payment! I, however, have to mention that the SNCF is often on strike! We French people, strike a lot. Oh, and I should add that If you have young children, I suggest you use a baby carrier or take the bus rather than the train or métro as you will have to carry your stroller up and down the stairs (they don’t seem to think elevators are worth spending money for).
10.) Be open-minded. Being a happy expat requires open-mindedness, determination and patience. It is not going to be easy but you can be happy there if you want to. Respect the French culture and try to understand it and you will be just fine!