I miss Paris. 

I lived there from 2017 to 2023, then I moved back to the US. Why? That’s another story. The universe is unfolding as it should, but I still miss Paris.

I miss the uniform and stunning Haussmann apartment buildings, the smell of bread outside the boulangeries, the wine. I miss stopping by the Musée d’Orsay just to tell Olympia hello. I miss the elegance, and I miss the way Paris isn’t afraid to stop being elegant and dance to a brass band wearing pink onesies, singing along to Another One Bites the Dust. I miss crowding into a restaurant, tables packed so tightly I had to keep my big old American arms clamped to my sides. I miss my Paris friends. 

I came back to the US with a container full of mid-century modern furniture and a big attitude. Here are five Parisian habits adopted by this highly effective returning expat.

A couple walking on street during a rainy day in Paris.
photo by Jean-Baptiste D.


It took me a while to catch on to flirting in Paris. At first, I thought all the waiters were into me. I thought the butcher wanted to come visit me when he closed up shop for the day. No–all they were doing was being friendly and making eye contact, but to this Puritan lady it looked like we were on a slippery slope. After a while, I got it. In shops, good French customer service means you make the customer feel good about the transaction. Also, women are just women in France – regardless of age, fair game to all the gentlemen. The French have a reputation for being snooty, but once you get in there with some decent language skills and a fabulous top, they’re quite friendly.

Back in the USA, friends kept telling me I was flirting when I was clearly just exchanging witty banter. Tomato, tomahto. As a femme d’une certain age, I no longer care what people think and will smile at cuties who smile first, or I’ll return a compliment, or chat up other bar patrons. 

Which brings me to my next point…

The Apéro, now called Happy Hour

Before I lived in France, I spent my late afternoons driving my three kids to swim practice in my minivan. In France, with my only kid still at home taking the Metro to school, I was free in the late afternoons to sit on a terrace with a glass of rosé, talking with friends or people-watching while I explored my rich inner life. Apéro time is the perfect demarcation between daytime and evening, a breather before you have to get dinner on the table.

In the US, sidewalk cafés are rare, so I usually end up at a bar with friends or on my front porch with rosé. The people-watching is less interesting, but my friends and inner life get me through.

Speaking of rosé…

a bottle of wine sitting on top of a table with the Eiffel Tower lit in the background.
Photo by Mingrui He

I’m Now a Wine Snob

Before France, Kendall Jackson Merlot was my go-to. I’d never been on a wine tour or had a wine class or spit in a bucket. In France, I didn’t need to–I had dates. If there’s one thing Frenchmen love to talk about over dinner, it’s wine, and by the end of my time in France I knew my way around a wine cellar as well as anybody. My favorites were Pic Saint Loup or Saint Joseph for the reds, or sauvignon blanc with fish, or Muscadet with oysters. Bandol is my pick for rosé, and I used to keep Demoiselles champagne in the fridge just in case. 

One warm afternoon recently at my local watering hole, I asked what kinds of rosé they stocked, and the bartender pulled a box of something pink from under the bar. Lord have mercy.

“This is all I’ve got for rosé,” Eric stammered.

I blinked. “God, Eric, make me a gin and tonic,” I ordered. “Don’t come at me with that nonsense.”

He shrugged, helpless. Eric does make a fantastic G and T, so it worked out fine. Back to wine.com for my rosé selection.

Now, about the food…

Before Girl Dinner, There was Grignoter

When I became an empty nester, I gloried in my sparsely equipped fridge. I kept yogurt and nuts, cheese, some arugula, a little fruit, some smoked salmon. I’d stop by the butcher for a poulet rôti or a single cordon bleu once in a while if I wanted something hot. Meal prep took five minutes, cleanup took one. I felt light as a bird, in duties and in weight.

Once, a suitor invited me to his place for dinner, then apologized that he’d gotten stuck at work and we would have to grignoter (graze) for dinner. He had a fresh baguette, several little jars of tasty things to spread on it, dried apricots, a tin of fragrant tuna, a nice camembert, tiny crackers, and wine. We sat on the floor around the coffee table, and he handed me bites of baguette with cheese spread and crackers topped with camembert. We sipped wine and talked about our day. It was elegant and simple. 

Don’t fire up your oven on these hot summer days–grignoter.

A baguette and cold cuts on gray surface next to cornichons and butter.
photo by Jez Timms


 I have been blessed with a pretty solid resting bitch face. Good genes, I guess–my mother could clear a room with one eyebrow. Being American, however, I got used to flash-smiling at every single person I encountered, as a greeting. In Paris, the greeting is bonjour, no exceptions, no smiling. That’s my element.

Now, back in the USA, my smile-reflex is gone. I march through Target with my eyes on the prize and fill my cart and get out, being friendly only with the cashier. No more courtesy smiles for randos. If you and I have a genuine interaction, I will open my heart. But short of that, my face will remain relaxed. 

What about you?

Did you pick up any habits from your time overseas? What do you miss? What did you learn?

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Written by Yvonne Hazelton for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.


Yvonne Hazelton

Yvonne is an American writer living in Paris. She blogs at Escaping the Empty Nest.

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