You’ve decided to come to Paris. You know you should probably go see the Eiffel tower, visit the Louvre and maybe eat a croissant, now what? Though you might feel like you know Paris pretty well–after all you’ve watched Amelie so many times you no longer need subtitles, you’ve listed (but never actually finished) Breathless among your favorite movies on Facebook, and always secretly thought Carrie should’ve stayed with Petrovsky…but you really have no idea. Paris is weird and Parisians are even weirder. Things are never what they seem in this city, so here are a few helpful do’s and don’ts to get you through even your most quotidian Parisian encounters.
One of the reasons Paris is unique from other major metropolitans is because of its abundance of beautiful and accessible parks. I know where you come from parks are scary places where babies play, drug dealers work and homeless people sleep—this isn’t the case in Paris. Parisians all have really small and shitty apartments so they make public space their second home. At your local park you can smoke, eat, stare, have friends over, drink, kiss, read, talk, there’s even free wifi; it’s like home, just with better people watching. So get out your picnic blanket and settle down to chez vert.
They’re French anyways. It’s a perfect way to record all your cliché observations and experiences in your new city. Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway, Matisse and Wilde all owned one-now you can too. The Moleskine will make you feel so intelligentsia and besides it will make you look busy at the cafés, as it can be an inexpensive and healthy substitute for cigarettes.
Learn to love wine, because that’s all you can drink here. Forget about hard liquor, it’s considered really trashy, even the hobos don’t drink it.
Do get a French boyfriend. He will fuck with your head, he may or may not drive a scooter, he will have a cute smile and he will most definitely cheat on you. If you date a French man you will guarantee yourself a healthy dose of drama and romance… isn’t that what being abroad is all about?!
Don’t Ask for Directions
When you are lost in Paris (you will be), the absolute last thing you should do is ask someone for directions. You can expect one of two responses: either a shrug and a blank look or a really long and involved set of directions that gets you to the furthest geographical point in the city from where you actually wanted to go only to discover that the place you were looking for was in fact a block from the place you initially asked for directions from. Amy Winehouse’s hairpiece would literally be more help than a Parisian in this situation. I really don’t have a good explanation for this phenomenon. The former response I can attribute to typical Parisian rien à foutre but the later still baffles me. So if you’re lost in Paris, do yourself a favor and just give up—it’s the Parisian thing to do
Don’t you dare look, think, purchase or breathe the word ‘beret’. Just because Gossip Girl did it, doesn’t mean you should. Nothing says American lost in Paris like inappropriate headgear.
Never On Sunday is not only for the Greeks; it also applies to the French. Don’t try to do anything on Sunday, actually be wary of Mondays, Tuesdays, the month of August, Wednesdays, the hours of 11:30am-3:00pm, Saturdays and most Fridays. Nothing is ever open in Paris. Accept this fact and plan ahead for your Sunday picnic.
Avoid making a splash. This advice is both practical and ideological. Neutrals are uniform here. Don’t take this as a cue to bring your brightest clothes so that you stand out, the French hate that. The whole American individuality thing doesn’t translate here. The French will just think you’re being obnoxious, and they’re right, you are.
You can read more Paris Do’s and Paris Dont’s here.