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As I prepare for my move to Paris, friends, family, and customers at the boutique I work at are constantly expressing their surprise that out of all the places to relocate to, I would choose beautiful Paris.
“We hated Paris,” my sudden advisors will tell me. “Out of all the cities we visited in Europe, our least favorite was Paris. The people are rude! They called us ‘snobby Americans!’ I don’t understand why you’d move to a city with such nasty people.”
While there are, granted, the taxi cab drivers who will make your commutes miserable or the busy waiter that will roll his eyes at every pause you take while ordering, Parisians aren’t born hating Americans. We in the States are simply used to different standards of what vocal volumes are acceptable and how to greet someone. Neither of these cultures are necessarily better than the other. But when we visit another country, if we expect to be treated with respect, we should respect the customs on others’ turf.
Here are five simple tips to remember for your next trip to Paris to avoid meeting the “rude parisian” stereotype and maximize the overall pleasantness of your stay in the City of Lights.
Always greet the man or woman in charge. Whether this be while you’re ascending a bus, entering a boutique or perusing flea market stands, greeting the attendant or employee will guarantee you better service. Whenever someone is about to serve you, or whenever you are asking a service of someone (directions, recommendations, etc.), it’s an important French custom to greet the person first. Saying hello may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s so easy to forget to acknowledge the keeper of the shop when we have our eye on a cute top/rare vintage postage stamp/jar of Nutella.
Inside voices are always a good idea. If you’re looking to minimize the amount of brash rudeness you’ll experience on your Paris trip, the reality is that you may have to make an effort to lower your speaking voice, your footsteps, and your general presence to minimalism. Paris is known for being a quiet city. Restaurant voices often barely transcend elevated murmurs and metro rides are silent. In the United States, we often practice the liberating custom of being able to speak as loudly as we want in public places, but practice this custom in Paris and you’ll be the victim of stink eyes and possibly pickpockets. Being respectful of others’ dining experiences and overall peace will earn you the warm smiles of others.
Give up your seat for the disabled, the elderly, pregnant women, etc…
Another highly-regarded French custom is giving up one’s seat to help the elderly, the disabled, and basically anyone who looks like they need your bus seat more than you do. Performing this act of sacrifice as soon as an elderly Parisian walks onto the metro/bus will earn you strong feelings of approval and gratitude from the rest of your bus community.
Enjoy food the Parisian way. Although ketchup bottles are becoming more and more common in restaurants across Paris, asking for a side of ketchup for your fries used to guarantee a huffy waiter. The French take their gastronomy very seriously, and asking to change a dish to include your favorite cheese from home or substitute part of a dish for another could be a serious gastronomical offense. If you want to enjoy Paris to the fullest, trust the Parisians’ tastebuds and order dishes as they are. Paris isn’t known as one of the food capitals of the world for nothing.
And, lastly, I know you’ve heard this a thousand times before, but it’s so true: Make an honest effort to start every conversation in French. Even if it’s just for asking directions or you’re frustrated because it seems that everyone is immediately responding to you in English, this little tip will give you faster service at restaurants, sincere and helpful responses from shopkeepers, and overall a more pleasant and helpful experience in a city overrun by tourists who expect every local to speak English. If you want to make the best of your trip, try to learn at least the few essential phrases, like, “Excusez-moi, où sont les toilettes?” or, “Combien coûte-ça?” I promise, you’ll be excited to practice these phrases over and over again on your trip.
Preparing to move to another country is no walk in the park.
In order to live in France, you have to overcome a variety of legal and logistical obstacles to prove your French worthiness. An example of the mundane tasks to complete includes figuring out how you’re going to continue taking your American meds, finding a roof over your head, translating important documents to French for the notorious prefecture visits and most importantly, obtain a visa.
Surprise surprise, this little treasure came TODAY in the mail!
I know it seems like just a little sticker in a book, but in fact, this visa is the symbol of my new legal life in Paris. I can live there for a whole year. HOW EXCITING.
The process for getting the visa isn’t terribly difficult. Check out your French consulate’s website for the documents you have to put together before making an appointment.
Visiting the consulate in LA was nerve-wracking. But exciting, because it was my first opportunity in a long time to see if I could speak French well enough to trick people into thinking one of my parents was French or something.
I dressed to impress, of course.
Well, my French didn’t flow as easily as I hoped; I was so nervous. But I could tell the guy processing my papers appreciated it. He even responded to me in French!!! I was flattered, but this probably wasn’t a very good idea as now I’m clueless as to the next steps I’m supposed to take with the OFII once i’m actually in France. (LOL still too flattered to care.)
Updates on My Housing Sitch, If You Care
I’ve been trying to find housing through the American University in Paris for my first semester in Paris. I ideally wanted to be with children, because I love kids and I just relate to them better than the adults in this world who are constantly wearing poker faces and miscommunicating their feelings with tricky words loaded with hidden meanings. Kids are just easy. They’re real. And they’re fun to practice the language with.
Anyhow, I finally got my housing placement today: I got placed with a French family (WOOHOO!), which is great news for my French!!! I’ll be living with a French mom and pop and their 18-year old son (oh la la) and another student at the American University of Paris. We’ll both get our own rooms and private bathrooms.
And the icing on the cake? The family’s apartment is located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. AKA, diplomat and ambassador haven. All of Paris’ wealthiest find their homes here. It’s an absolutely stunning and totally safe area of Paris; parks abound and the Bois de Boulogne, Paris’ largest park and outdoor haven, is a few minutes away.
**Heaven is a place on earth with my home stay family…..**
T-20 days until the big move. Can’t wait. Longing and dreaming of Paris every day…
The other day while working at the boutique, I met a lady who was a sourpuss about Southern California. She basically walked into the store complaining about beautiful, perfect SoCal (?!). Here were some of her complaints:
The kids are rotten
Parents only care about their shiny cars and appearances
Everyone is plastic
Life is too fast-paced
The beaches are filthy and disease-ridden
Although there are definitely many examples of SoCal families who epitomize these stereotypes, I had never wanted to punch someone in the face more. It’s rare to hear someone talk badly about southern California; sure, we have a higher concentrated population of plastic body parts than most other places, but this doesn’t mean that the majority of our people aren’t amiable and appreciative of our year-round perfect weather. And, when you live by the beach, how fast-paced can life be??? Has this woman ever set foot in a real city??? Also, why the heck are you complaining about southern California when there are people who are actually living in places that are bombed and children live in fear of death every day??? Is southern California REALLY THAT BAD????
I might have agreed with the sourpuss woman on the point about her beaches a year ago–after traveling to Hawaii, Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea, I really didn’t think SoCal beaches were in the same league at all. Cold. Dirty. Seaweed-filled. Rough.
HOWEVER. I spent the majority of my last summer dating the self-dubbed “Prince of Laguna Beach,” so I got the royal tour of many of Laguna Beach’s hidden gems. If your only perception of Laguna Beach is limited to the Main beach by all of the shops and restaurants, I am sorry for you.
Enter Table Rock Beach, my new all-time favorite beach in Orange County:
Table Rock, located off the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and West Street, is the one of the most picturesque spots of Orange County’s coast. Not only are the waters CRYSTAL clear (you can see the little fish swimming around your toes), they’re also a gorgeous blue–so blue it’ll make you cry. You won’t think you’re in California; it feels like swimming in the Mediterranean.
There are also tide pools for your sea anemone poking pleasure.
My little brother described the entrance to the beach as “a portal between nature and civilization,” and he’s so right. You have to enter the beach through a steep staircase surrounded by a jungle of vegetation, so much so that as soon as you enter the “portal,” the sound of cars driving on PCH is muffled:
Although West Street’s Beach is as close to any Gulf of Mexico beach you’re going to get in Orange County, be forewarned that it’s also one of the most popular hangout spots for the beauty queen pageant winners and cool kids of high school–perfectly-firm butt cheeks abound.
If you can accept that in their eyes you will never be as cool as them and just do your own thing, I promise you that you’ll find a haven on Table Rock. I even went so far as to go alone last week to the Beach Kingdom of Cool Kids, just because I love the crystal blue waters so much. Bring a book. Or a hat to cover your face to go total incognito. ;) xx
If you’d like to whip up the beauty above, all you need is whitecake mix, Cool Whip, and fresh berries. Voilà.
I don’t know if this is type of cake is some widely-known popular recipe, like the equivalent of strawberry shortcake (#immigrantschild problems…missing out on some key cultural American traditions). But I was simply amazed when my co-worker brought this heavenly thing into the boutique on the Fourth of July. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to taste so good. Whipped cream and fruit? How good could that be? I’ll tell you how good it can be–I was literally sucking up my saliva for the next hour after I’d finished my last bite; the cake tainted my saliva with its sweet and fruity intoxications.
Seriously, if this isn’t some well-known all-American favorite recipe, you’ve got to try making this for yourself. The cake is so light and airy and fruity it tastes like you’re eating diet food, only delicious.
So, naturally, I decided to make it myself. I was pleasantly surprised with the fact that I could use white cake mix for the batter, because if the recipe called for making a cake from scratch I probably wouldn’t have tried.
Be forewarned other immigrants’ children: this interesting thing called “Cool Whip,” which do NOT make the mistake of thinking it’s a brand name for whipped cream like I did, must be kept FROZEN and thus you cannot keep your beautiful cake out overnight, or else it will be ruined. I learned this the hard way. Please, for the love of God, after putting your heart and soul into whisking that batter and cutting fresh berries with love to decorate the cake, do not leave your cake out overnight, dear God no.
This is a picture of the single piece of my cake I was able to eat before it went sour.
I hope your fresh berry cake lasts more than a few hours.
Good ol’ Henry E. Huntington: A businessman who held a large financial empire and later dedicated large sums of his money to building railroads, developing real estate, and creating educational centers in southern California. Ah, corporate CEO’s, where would we be without ’em?
Located in lovely Pasadena, California (apparently the old-town of Beverly Hills, where all the lucky rich of L.A. used to squat), the Huntington Library can only be compared to southern California’s equivalent of Versailles: hundreds of acres of gardens to admire, a large mansion with many sitting and powder rooms modeled in the style of the Versailles palace, and a deceased rich person’s home which is now open to everyone in the world to admire. I hope someday my tiny apartment will be of such interest to the ever-curious tourists of the future.
If you’re into botany, culture, or tea, Mr. Huntington has left a haven of all of the above for you.
There is a shit load of botany for you to admire here–I mean, you really should be expecting this; the name of the place has the word “gardens” in it.
I actually am a big fan of botany, so I really enjoyed walking through the multiple Oriental-themed gardens pretending to be the badass Mrs. Arabella Huntington herself (really, she was badass, well-respected for her choices in art collecting and home decor, go her).
There are multiple gardens you can explore throughout the vast acres of land; we visited only the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Rose Garden. That alone took about two hours, because you get lost in the mazes of exotic trees and roses that all look the same but are categorized somehow into thousands of different breeds named after different rich people. Seriously, what is the criteria for having a rose named after you??? Because I’d so be on that…
Mr. Huntington also planted California’s first commercial avocado garden, so, you are very welcome, California.
Admission to the gardens is $12 for students on weekdays, so bring your student ID (or pull up your Facebook page and convince the ticket attendant that it’s proof enough that you’re a student at the American University of Paris…). Or, if you’re really a bargain hunter, every first Thursday of the month is a free day to visit the Gardens.
Huntington also left us his art collections for our free viewing pleasure. If you’re an art history buff, or simply enjoy reading the captions on art pieces to feel more cultured and Jeopardy-ready, then consider finding some shade from the heat of the gardens in Mr. Huntington’s very own crib.
You can also get a free audio guide to accompany you on the journey through the Huntington Mansion, complete with actors’ voices to make the experience all the more real.
After all that garden viewing and art appreciating, you’ll find your finger sandwich haven at the multiple tea houses and cafes.
Well, you can really only enter Finger Sandwich Land if you stop in to eat at the Rose Garden Tea Room, a busy and bustling indoor tea room complete with an hor ‘doevres buffet. We made a reservation to celebrate my sister’s birthday lunch, although it wasn’t quite the atmosphere we were expecting for an afternoon English tea…
After brunching multiple times at The Tea House on Los Rios, a quaint little outdoor tea house complete with individual tea kettles per customer, beautiful china tableware sets, and a quiet atmosphere interrupted only by the occasional wind chime or far-off train whistle, the tea house at the Huntington Gardens was chaos in comparison.
Let me start by stating how underwhelmed I was by the selection of tea. Although there is a larger selection of hot tea, including the rose tea (absolutely divine) and blackberry tea, it was a blazing hot day and the only option we had for iced tea was a passion fruit blend. Of course, it was refreshing, but not something I’d expect from a tea house. They should really be more sensitive to customers allergic to passion fruit.
As soon as you enter the Rose Garden Tea House, you are greeted by a din of chatter, tableware, and noise from the nearby kitchen. It seems that there is hardly any room to sit–but let me advise to insist on sitting in the back room, which you would only know existed if you went to use the restroom. The back room is quiet and hardly populated while all the other bourgeoisie customers are stuffed into a bustling room that provides the antithesis to the setting of a typical English afternoon tea. It is simply not a comfortable meal.
I am complaining about this because I was literally making out with the wall, I was so squished into my seat. There was no room to shift chairs/tables or else risk being trampled by wait staff hurriedly entering and exiting the kitchen. Plus, I am doubly disappointed because we had reserved space in advance and the table was hardly large enough for five people.
Me, being a big fan of finger sandwiches, however, was satisfied enough by the egg salad finger sandwiches to forget to voice my complaints at the scene. Each table was also given hot scones with different assorted marmalades, which were delicious. We were able to make our getaway with a few stolen scones.
My outlaw grandma and her precious stolen scones.
If you think you’re making reservations for a quaint little afternoon tea and scones in a lush-smelling rose garden, you are sorely mistaken. You will be stuffed into an extremely cramped and ulcer-inducing atmosphere whilst you try to enjoy your tea. The wait staff is nice, though, so props to you all for making the experience a little more enjoyable!
I recommend checking out The Chinese Garden Tea House, which at least lets you dine outside and enjoy views of botany while sipping on your tea. It looked like the meals at this tea house were more substantial than finger sandwiches, including noodles, meats, and other hearty Chinese lunch options.
Overall, Mr. Huntington provides a thrilling day for the ever culture-seeking tourists of the world. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes; the acres and acres of rich people land will leave your feet aching.
Literally the worst shoes to wear to hundreds of acres of gardens. Courtesy of Serena Mozafari.
To live the dream of waking up every morning in beautiful is something worth chasing, at least to me.
But, before I go, I’ve got to secure a roof over my head and a bed for my sure-to-be-tired feet.
Finding housing options in the City of Lights can seem daunting, but have no fear. There’s a space, a nook, and a cranny for everyone who seeks housing in Paris with a determined eye and heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the scientific findings of my Parisian housing research.
Chambre de Bonne: Literally translated to “maid’s quarters,” this housing situation is what you’d expect from the name: very small studio-ettes located on the highest floor of apartment buildings. Very important to note: living in a chambre de bonne means you may have to share a toilet and a shower with other tenants on the floor, and that your kitchen may be a couple of hot plates. The biggest pro (ding ding ding) is the affordability of the place. You can’t beat the cost of rent for a chambre de bonne in Paris, which usually ranges around€450 to €600. So, although very small, these tiny apartments may find their way to your heart and be “home” for a student on a budget someday.
Homestay: Living in a homestay is an attractive option for a number of reasons. If you’re nervous about living away from home, a homestay situation will allow you to integrate into a family away from home. Also, homestay programs are oftentimes cheaper than finding an apartment, and you don’t need to worry about furniture and sometimes cooking, cleaning, or laundry. Also, living in a homestay can prove to be a more culturally-enriching experience than living with other people who speak your language. It’s a great option for the traveler who fully wishes to immerse him or herself in another culture and language, and I guarantee you will pick up the language more quickly than if you were living with English-speaking roommates. If you become close enough with your host family, they may invite you out to participate in activities or trips (woohoo!). You can also check out my article on how to have an excellent homestay experience for tips.
The negative aspect to a homestay is, of course, you lose a large chunk of your independence. You are subject to the rules of a family that’s not your own, which may include curfews, house rules, etc. Also, you will have to make an active effort to meet other English-speaking travelers if you would like to make fellow expat contacts. This can be done easily, however, through language or academic classes, Meetup groups, and websites dedicated to organizing expatriate events (like Expatica). If I can give you one piece of advice to kick off your homestay to a great start: please don’t forget to bring a gift/token of appreciation for the family.
To enroll in a homestay program, ask your school or university first if they have homestay placement services. This is a great option as usually the institution has partnerships with certain families that are known to be safe and have provided excellent experiences to other students.
Larger/Shared Apartments: If you’re studying abroad through a university/college/language school, usually these institutions will offer to place you in either apartments with shared roommates or by yourself. Contact your university when you’ve decided which option best suits you.
There are reasons, however, not to go through university housing placement services. I, for one, would rather live with French-speaking girls my own age as opposed to American gals. Nothing against my people–I’d just rather be exposed as much as possible to the French language and culture as possible. As foreigner trying to find your own apartment, you have a couple of options:
Classified Ads:Fusac, Pap, and SeLoger, and even Craiglist for Paris all have classified ads of Frenchies trying to rent out space. You deal directly with other people in coming to an agreement, which may require French language capabilities.
Apartment Listings: These websites are exclusively focused on listing apartments for sale in France. Examples include French Century 21, Paris Rental, and Lodgis.
Vacation/Long-Term Rental Agencies: Some agencies provide a certain selection of apartments that are usually fully furnished. You can take a look at the apartments that these agencies list on their websites (check out Paris Rental for long-term rentals and Perfectly Paris for Paris Chic-certified short term rentals).
Word of Mouth: Got a friend or family member who lives in Paris? If they can ask around for you, they may be able to find an apartment with other Parisians, allowing you to skip the roommate search process.
Home Swap: Ever watched the movie “The Holiday?” Well, home swapping is actually a reality for many people who want a break from their own country or lifestyle. Although it may be a long shot that someone will want to give up their apartment for an extended period of time, it may be worth checking out the Parisian Craigslist every so often to see if someone wants to swap their chic and furnished apartment for your home for several months. The best part is it’s totally free housing without giving up your home elsewhere.
An example of a fully-furnished apartment you can rent through Perfectly Paris.
In case you were wondering where I will be seeking a roof over my head for the fall, I’ve decided on the homestay option.
It makes sense for me: I’m moving to Paris to hopefully one day secure a job in this beautiful city, and with this dream comes the possibility of settling down and having a family. It would truly benefit me to see the French family dynamic and immerse myself in the French culture as much as possible.
For others, who see Paris as more of a transient travel experience, a homestay may be a hindering option in regards to independence.
For a gal who plans to live in France for a while, however, this makes perfect sense.
I’ll be updating you on my homestay adventures to come.
Welcome to the blog that's on the pursuit of everything Paris Chic. I'm Ariana, a multimedia journalist based in Paris. Read more about me here.