When you live in Paris, you never stop learning, and therefore I knew it would only be a matter of time before I had another Top 10 list ready to go. So without further ado, here are my latest lessons learned from living in Paris.
1) I know that texting has become one of the dominant forms of communication in today’s digital age, but in Paris, it’s a way of life. Parisians simply won’t call you. Everything is done via text; so much so that most phone plans come with unlimited texting, but only about an hour or two worth of calls per month, because that’s all you really need. While I’m not particularly opposed to this method of communication, it can get rather frustrating when I’m trying to type out a paragraph on a mobile that would not look out of place in 2001. I think I may be finally warming up to the idea of getting a smartphone.
2) I may not have the most discerning of tastes when it comes to food, but after seven months in Paris, even I now know that French bread really is the best bread in the world. I’ve lost count of how many baguettes I’ve devoured during my time here, and I am well aware that going forward, no other bread will ever measure up for the rest of my life. However, when it comes time to share baguettes with your fellow Parisians, put the bread knife away, because here, no one cuts bread. If you want some, you simply tear off a piece, even when you’re at group gatherings. It’s a refreshingly informal custom that I’ve come to love.
3) Oftentimes, the bathroom is a separate room from where the toilet will be found, which means you have to be very specific when asking for directions at a party. Additionally, sometimes the bathroom is a separate room altogether located outside of the apartment, and therefore don’t be alarmed if you’re directed out the door and down the hallway past the building’s elevator. No one is trying to get rid of you, it’s just one of the many quirks of living in buildings that are hundreds of years old.
4) In today’s computerized world, typing is no longer a special skill so much as it is a necessity of life. I have grown up typing on a QWERTY keyboard, and until I moved to France, it never even occurred to me that there may be other keyboard layouts. But other layouts there are, and in France, they use what is called the AZERTY keyboard. While I have yet to master the art of typing in this layout, I have managed to trim the time it takes me to write a short email from 30 minutes to a mere 20. I consider this a huge win.
5) I may be alone in this thinking, but when I’m on public transit systems, I will often choose to stand instead of forcing myself into the one available seat in the corner that would require me to step over half a dozen people to get there. Parisians don’t share this line of thinking, and if there is an empty seat on the Metro, no matter how inaccessible it may be, they will climb over half the train to get there. It really is quite the phenomenon, and is one that has kept me entertained on many a Metro ride.
6) If patience is a virtue, then it is not one that French drivers possess. During my time here, I’ve come to observe that the average time it takes Parisian drivers to honk the horn when something is in their way is approximately four seconds. Even if it is perfectly clear that whatever that obstacle may be will be gone in 5 seconds, they can’t resist a quick honk to make sure everyone is aware of their inconvenience. I’ve observed this phenomenon in many large cities, but in terms of the length of time it takes to reach for that horn, the French win hands down.
7) If you order tiramisu in Paris, it will come in a mason jar. I don’t know why, and I don’t particularly care why. They’re that delicious.
8) There is nothing more stressful in this city than bagging your own groceries at the supermarket, because in France, this task falls to you, the shopper. Seven months in, it still amazes me how people can expertly bag their food, pay, and be out of the way before the next customer in line comes through without so much as breaking a sweat. This is a skill I have yet to acquire, and my incompetence in this matter has gotten to the point that I refuse to go to the supermarket between 5PM and 7PM, because the pressure of rush hour is too much. Seriously.
9) Speaking of the supermarket, be sure that you know exactly when it is open and closed, because there are no such things as 24 hour stores in France. Everything opens and closes at random hours, and invariably, they will always be closed when you need them. Plan accordingly.
10) The aforementioned honking aside, I’ve discovered that everything operates at a lower decibel in Paris, and this is particularly apparent, not to mention most welcome, at restaurants. Even when a place is packed, you never need to raise your voice to be heard, because the French tend to talk much quieter than I’m used to, which keeps the ambient noise down. Since I’ve been living in Paris, I’ve noticed a marked difference in my average volume, and even though I’ve significantly lowered my voice, I still tend to stand out when I’m in restaurants as the loud one. I’m working on it, but old habits die hard.
That’s all for now, but I’m sure there are many more lessons this beautiful city has yet to teach me. Until then, it’s off to the bakery for some baguettes and tiramisu!