La Seine, meg hourihan
Falling in love with romance-infused Paris – the grandiose Haussmannian architecture, the Marais’ winding streets, and the city’s bistro scene – is easy. But if you’re not born here, living in Paris is another story. It’s a whole other lifestyle, a mentality. And although it is hard not to love Paris for its compelling beauty alone, not everyone takes to Parisian life like a duck to water. While most will relish in its temptations, others will see its grayer side. The very visible problem of homelessness, the significantly different humor, the mentality…even the party chitchat is different. The grimy metro, overflowing museums, and the onslaught of hipsters all take some getting used to as well. Paris may not be very far away from London, my hometown, but when I moved here, everything seemed far removed from what I knew. The unashamed indulgence in pleasure, the variety and standard of the food, the slower pace of life, the abundance of cultural activities, and the city’s manageable size are features I had a hard time finding elsewhere.
Drburtoni/ Roseval, Didier Gauchucheau
And then one day, I woke up Parisian. In other words, living a dichotomy of loving and hating the city, yelling at people for inconsiderate behavior on public transport, eating out most days, and when the sun shines, running to the nearest grassy spot no matter how crowded are now commonplace.
1. Metro rules. Like real Parisians, I would rather prolong my journey by 10 minutes than change metros twice to get anywhere. Even if the metro stops are close together, it’s just impractical.
2. Drinking. Pleasure in France is no sin. On the contrary, it’s a right. The general lifestyle tends to include working hard and playing harder, which is why the “métro-boulo-apéro-dodo” (metro-work-apéritif-sleep) routine is golden in Paris, especially in the summer. Without second thought to the crowds, I too squeeze myself into a spot on the banks of the Seine and its canals – like the Canal de l’Ourcq or Saint-Martin – for cheese and wine with friends before sunset.
3. Food shopping rules. I no longer go to the supermarket to buy fruits and vegetables, but to one of the numerous neighborhood markets. And while I wouldn’t have expected to find myself donning a “caddy” (one of those fabric or plastic shopping carts) until well into my seventies, I converted and now have a funky pink one with orange hearts slapped all over it.
4. Eating out. Parisians dine out most days of the week (including weekends, unless they’re hosting a dinner party), so tables at good restaurants can be hard to come by. However, booking at a restaurant branché (fashionable) months ahead no longer bothers me or any self-respecting Parisian. It is only natural that the better the restaurant, the harder the challenge.
Le Bon Georges, Palmyre Roigt
5. Geography. Each arrondissement has a distinct vibe to it, and where you live and spend your time says a lot about who you are. Bobo? You’ll likely never be seen in the 16ème.
6. Toilet habits. Parisians are freer creatures than they first let on. Peeing in the street is a man’s prerogative. I no longer frown at what seemed like an unsightly liberation in my culture.
7. Les Parisiennes. Agile and focused, the real Parisienne can type a text message while smoking her cigarette and dodging dog poo on the pavement without breaking into a sweat, and I was glad when I had finally learned to keep my shoes pristine.
8. Geography – lesson two. When inquiring about where people are from, I regularly make the Freudian slip of asking where they’re from in Paris when I mean France. Though you’d never know it from talking to some Parisians, there exists a great deal of France outside of Paris.
9. Dynamics of dining out. Like Parisians, I have grown immune to the general bad humor and disposition that reside in a large fraction of the city’s restaurant and bar staff. I even tip them…sometimes.
10. Sightseeing. Most Parisians cannot recall the last time they saw the Eiffel Tower, and neither can I. However, most Parisians secretly adore Paris’ star attractions, as do I. I still smile when I see a small part of the Eiffel Tower appear unexpectedly above the rooftops or in an opening between streets.
- Want to learn how to become a Parisian in one hour? Check out Olivier Giraud’s very popular one man show
- HiP Paris’ guide on how to accessorize like un vrai Parisian
- A helpful read on proper French Etiquette by the Paris Culture Guide