18 Little Things I Learned After Living In Paris For A Year

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In January of 2011, I took a one-way ticket to Paris and ended up staying for a year. (This was not legal and I do not recommend it, especially if you are as scared of being deported as I was.) However, it was one of the most formative experiences of my twenties, mainly because of the inappropriate relationship I developed with French butter.

1. The first few months will be like a magical ride of baguettes, croissants, cheese, these little cream puff things, beignets, soupe l’oignon, pommes frites, salade du chevre chaud, Nutella crêpes, and basically any other thing you can stuff in your mouth.

2. Then, you walk all that food off, because there are stairs everywhere. Everywhere! You live in a fifth story walkup and the staircase is as narrow as your body is wide and you realize that every climb to and from your apartment is a perilous risk and you’re tempting fate just to grab a baguette (totally worth it, though).

3. You learn that if there’s an elevator available at a metro, you take it, because it means the stair situation is next-level. (Looking at you Abbesses and your never-ending amount of stairs in which you keep climbing until you think you can’t climb anymore and then, while at the top, vow to never ever ever ever deny the chance for an elevator again.)

4. You will continually eat bread and pastries and not at all understand how it’s so much better than any bread or pastry you’ve ever had.

5. Franprix and Monoprix will be your grocery stores and you will very quickly learn that the following are true: French cashiers do not want your large bills and will demand that you give them exact change and you won’t know this, nor will you understand what they’re saying and they will shoo you away to someone who can speak to you and you will stand there feeling like you are the least capable person in the entire world.

6. You will learn that you know nothing and you will force yourself to get on your A game, because you are severely out of your element.

7. After a few months, you will laugh about the scared, inexperienced expat in the Monoprix as you effortlessly hand the cashier exact change, bag your groceries, and leave without a hiccup.

8. Inevitably, no matter what, someone who works at the metro will yell at you for doing something terribly faux pas in the metro, like having the gall to ask them to give you your money back because the machine ate a 50 bill and did not recharge your Navigo.

9. You will realize that the best way to see the city is either by walking it (of which you will do a lot) or taking a city bus from one side to the other.

10. Your internet will never work, there will never be free WiFi (weefee, as the Parisians say) and you will feel like you are living in the Dark Ages.

11. You will do as the Parisians do and grab some McDonald’s (MacDo) and have a picnic at Versailles.

12. No matter what, after a few months, you will feel like you are in any other city and it will cease to feel as magical as it once did.

13. But then, you will do something mundane like go buy an office chair and, as you bundle out of the metro stop, you’ll look to the right of you and see the Eiffel Tower careening over The Seine and the wonderment of this place will hit you in the bones and you’ll be like, “I live here? Wow.”

14. When you get back from Paris, no matter what, you will lament about the state of non-French butter for the rest of your life. You will mourn it like it was a part of you. Even if it has been years since you were last in France, you will sometimes reminisce upon the butter as if it’s the most important memory of an entire year spent in Paris, because the butter is truly THAT GOOD, THAT LIFE-CHANGING, THAT ORGASMIC.

15. You will romanticize everything there is to romanticize about Paris once you are no longer in Paris, conveniently forgetting the little details like: everything is slow coming there, it smells like urine, and the people aren’t as friendly as you are used to.

16. You will know a lot of random French vocabulary words.

17. You will hate ordering a Diet Coke, because you’ll want to order a Coca Light.

18. No matter how much you wanted to leave after that year, you will inevitably fixate on going back, if only to eat butter until your arteries burst. TC mark

Jamie Varon

Writer • Hit me up: Twitter & Facebook

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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