I’ve been living in Paris now for a little over two months now….although it feels like much longer,and I can happily say I’m getting the hang of the French ways and how to get things done around here. It’s not been an easy ride so far, but it’s definitely shown me that despite the fact that you can fly from London to Paris in 45 mins, we have many, many differences between us and our French friends across the channel.
For starters, the French love their dogs. Seriously. Being not so much of dog lover myself, it was one of the first things I noticed when I arrived. They’re in restaurants, shops, the metro…everywhere. Unlike the streets of London, Parisian streets can always be spotted with remnants of doggy business. This became very apparent to me on my walk to work when I’m constantly having to dodge the mess on the pavements.
Another thing that has taken some getting used to here, is that getting things done in a France takes a lot longer. For example, my housing situation. Before I could even be considered to renting a place, I had to bring along with me a whole load of documents, including various proofs of identification (Seriously?? How many examples do you need to prove that I am me!), my parents payslips, tax payments, utility bills….you get the drift. And if that wasn’t enough, some people wouldn’t even let me live there if I didn’t have a France based guarantor. In the end, I managed to get around all of this with the help of a family friend based in Paris. Also opening a bank account was another long process with the main issue being the fact that I couldn’t open one without a French address, but then I couldn’t get accommodation without a French bank account. How is that meant to work exactly? Anyways, I soon overcame this hurdle and now have a bank account.
I’ve always been under the impression that French people appreciate it when you make an effort to speak French to them, but contrary to this, I’ve found that they don’t care. Often they will just start to speak English when they realise I’m foreign and sometimes I’m faced with a disapproving look as if to say ‘Can you please stop butchering our language’ , and there were a couple of incidences when I first arrived, particularly on the phone when I had the person on the other end tell me that my French was so bad and they couldn’t understand me. Not really a confidence booster but nonetheless, I’ve continued to persevere through and very rarely resort to speaking English with someone even if we really are struggling to understand what the other is saying.
This leads me to my most obvious observation that I’ve made while in Paris. Parisians are a lot more direct, and dare I say it ruder. This doesn’t go for all French people, or even all Parisians, but the initial experiences I had weren’t fantastic. But then I’ve met and have been helped by some really lovely and friendly people who have made up for the those who have been a little less so nice.
It’s been two months so far, and it has been a culture shock that took some time getting use to. Nevertheless, having an experience like this definitely makes you stronger as a person and a lot more thick skinned. It’s also forced me into situations that I’m less than comfortable with, like speaking French on the phone, but has allowed me to realise that I’m a lot more capable than I first thought.