Today marks one month since I arrived in Paris! In some ways I still can’t believe it, but I have also already settled comfortably into new routines.
After one month, I still haven’t gone up the Eiffel Tower, stepped into a clothing store, or eaten a whole baguette. I have, however, gone to several art museums, become super confident using the metro system, and eaten many pain au chocolates.
I have already learned so much since coming here. There are many cultural differences between America and France, and I still have much to figure out, but I think in the past month I have gained a pretty good sense of how things work here. Maybe one of the biggest differences is the pace of life. The French love to take their time. You hardly ever see people rushing, especially when it comes to food. The waiters don’t come around to refill your drink every minute and there’s no such thing as take-home boxes at restaurants. I also hardly ever see people eating and walking, except baguettes. Every type of person can be seen at any time of day walking down the street eating a baguette.
There is also definitely a greater emphasis on quality over quantity. I think this is partially why things are so expensive here, or at least compared to in America. The French generally have less, but what they do have is very good quality and they take pride in it. The things that people get every day are still inexpensive, like fresh baked goods in the morning and bottles wine at night. Everything is savored, enjoyed, and spent time on because it worth spending time on.
I still have yet to experience a stereotypically rude French person, but I think I understand where it originates from. The French have a different standard of manners from Americans, and if you come to the country completely ignorant to them, I can see how it would be really offensive (as would be true anywhere else). They are actually very polite in a lot of ways, but you have to know the proper context to use this politeness. In shops, or with people you encounter in more personal spaces (an apartment building, school, restaurant, etc.) everyone says “Bonjour/Bonsoir” to each other. If you are on the street but do something that leads to a direct interaction with someone (i.e., holding a door open) They will thank you and also greet you. However, when you are on the metro, the unspoken goal is to have a little interaction with others and attract as little attention to yourself as possible. The metro has its own set of etiquette entirely, but that’s a lot to get into!
Of course, there are a lot of things that are socially acceptable in France that would be looked down upon in America. There is more blatant nudity in advertisements and on magazine covers. There is also an abundance of PDA between couples of all ages, especially on the metro. I never even realized how relatively tame Americans are when it comes to PDA until I experienced the French version.
The French also are very laid-back when it comes to work (or at least from what I’ve experienced at PCA). They never seem to be in their offices when I want to find someone and they take incredibly long lunch breaks, so between 1-2PM I can never find a teacher or administrator. However, in contrast to that, if a teacher has to cancel class because they are sick or even for a national holiday, they reschedule the class to make it up, which usually happens on a Saturday. I find this bizarre, but I guess the French assume you’re always going to be flexible so you can just go to class on Saturday if you have to? I know this would never work in America because we kind of have the general assumption that people are busy and constantly have plans.
There is a very “French” way of dressing, which I don’t really fit into at all. For women, it involves flats, heels, booties, or boots. Usually black, or another darker color. They some how always are in very good condition despite all the walking they are put through. Then black pants, dark jeans, or a professional-looking skirt. A simple top with a blazer, or maybe a light sweater. A scarf, and probably a trench coat. Natural or no make up. Long hair, usually down. I’d say this is a typical uniform for a French woman. There are of course exceptions and the norm varies between age groups. Denim shirts and jackets are also really big here. All the women have huge, fashionable bags as well.
A weird phenomena here is chocolate cereal. I don’t think cereal is a popular breakfast option here (baguettes and croissants, always) but if you were to have cereal in France, it will be hard to find one without chocolate in it, This doesn’t mean sugary, unhealthy chocolate cereal like we have in America. It’s just the way cereal is here for some reason.
One of my favorite parts of using the metro are street musicians. Very often there will be a person playing the violin, accordion, or saxophone either in a metro stop or even on the train. My absolute favorite are the full bands that play in the bigger metro stops. There’s nothing like racing between stops to super-Parisian band music!
An interesting part of life here are the billboards. There are advertisements everywhere, and I find them fascinating. I especially like the gigantic ones in the metro stations. It’s also a fun way to practice my French while I’m waiting for a train.
Well this became a ramble of some more observations I’ve had regarding life in France, but a lot of people liked my first one so I hope you enjoyed it! This weekend will consist of lots of homework, and I hope to go into Notre Dame providing the weather is nice. I also am having brunch on Sunday with Francesca, Dov, and their kids. Ah, la vie Parisien c’est bon!