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Ever since the invention of the internet, I am a fan of those “10 things lists”. It’s always encouraging to see that others are struggling with the same oddities, or to totally dissociate yourself from certain groups thinking “what the heck is wrong with people, jeez!”
After living for more than 15 years in Paris I do still think sometimes that people around me are weird, like.. REALLY weird .. but just a wink later I embrace this culture (Apéro should be mandatory every damn day) and I feel at home as nowhere before.
But there are some things that came as a surprise, to the good or the bad, and never that serious:
- Everyone eats more than you, drinks more than you, and is, and always will be slimmer than you. Living in Paris without being Parisian or having an eating disorder means you are doomed to be big(ger). Deal with it. (You need to, really. Best BEFORE having kids, otherwise you risk punching some random 45 kg mom of 3 with a baguette on one point)
- Everyone will look better than you, or at least make you feel like they do. But let’s be honest, if you did not come to Paris to work in Fashion, with Fashion or as Fashion.. They most likely are. And that should be ok! Very high standards are applying and chances are high that you lose. Get over it.
- An average family dinner/lunch lasts at least 4 hours, if you are invited for lunch AND dinner, you have around 1h in between the last digestif of lunch before starting the apéro for dinner. Use this time wisely, it could be 6 hours until you are released.
- Do you think the bureaucracy is crazy where you’re from? LOL… Be prepared to carry a copy of every damn document that was ever created in your name with you, at all times. Always
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- People are paying with Cheque. Really, they do. Until now, I believed it’s something that disappeared in the ’80s. It didn’t. Not in France.
- Don’t think that Online Banking is a thing. It’s not. Don’t even bother to try. You might come from a place on earth where you can initiate a payment with one click to whatever bank account you want. Keep it as a nice memory in your heart, dream about it and send a cheque (it is possible that it changed at some banks though; it did not at mine).
- Get (mentally) prepared to be exposed to food that you never even thought could exist or be anywhere near you. Oysters, Champagne, and foie gras… but as well bone marrow, rillettes, andouille, and half raw kidneys. This is the stuff you find in random restaurants, THIS is normal.
- It’s considered appropriate to pay unbelievable amounts of money for macarons or chocolate and, even though you might laugh about it at first and call it ridiculous; sooner than you think you will find yourself queuing in a 50 m long queue to give Pierre Hermé your credit card and your soul.
- People expect you to know everything about your country; its culture, its music, its writers, philosophers, painters, history, politicians, voting system, grammar… And they want to talk about it. With you! (maybe I am just unlucky or extremely not knowing shit about anything, but I have been in some awkward situations).
- People don’t speak English. That’s fine, it totally is. Just adjust your expectations and don’t think: it’s a capital, everyone speaks English! They don’t. They simply don’t. Unless you speak French, then they answer in English.
(check the following clip to learn French in 1 (ONE!) word, I can assure you, it works)