2014 Fall CIEE Danielle Hagerty External Programs France

Le Premier Goût de Paris

It still has yet to hit me that I am in Paris, the city that I’ve heard about all my life. I think that it’s actually been less of a “hit” and more of a gradual realization as, every day, I see more and more of the culture and people of this remarkable place.

First off, for anyone who is wondering if Paris might be overrated or romanticized: IT’S NOT. It is every bit as magical a city as you would imagine it to be. Paris is, however, very different from the U.S. Even though it’s only been six full days since I’ve been here, I have already experienced just how different America and France are from each other.

The most blatant difference, and one that always comes with travel, is the 6 hour time difference in France. My body has yet to forgive me for watching New Girl on the plane instead of trying to sleep. This is something that I will adjust to (hopefully) soon so I’m not in need of an American-sized Starbucks every day.

Which brings me to, yes, the coffee. The coffees are so much smaller in France than they are in the United States. Luckily, Starbucks has found its way to Paris (with American-sized drinks, thank God) and in the mornings my ever-drooping eyes are desperately searching for the blessed green mermaid who has thus far kept me alive and well. I am hoping to wean myself off of this très cher habit soon.

One habit that I have had to break since I’ve been here is my tendency to smile at strangers. This is NOT something you do on the streets of Paris, and especially not on the metro. Apparently smiles are interpreted as an invitation to blow kisses, catcall, or proceed to taking the empty seat beside you. Non merci.

A couple other differences:

  • In order to open the doors on the metro to get on or off, there is a button you have to push! They are not automatic. It makes for a less than graceful exist the first few times around for those who aren’t used to it, but practice makes perfect.
  • Bathrooms make up two different rooms: the toilet is in one room and the shower and sink are in another. Simple concept: clean and dirty.
  • There are no hugs! The French greet each other with what is called la bise (pronounced “lah-beeze”). It is simply two little kisses, one for each cheek. Mwah, mwah.
  • There are literally outdoor cafes EVERYWHERE. Consider this a confirmation of the stereotyped Parisian sitting at a table on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette and drinking un petit café.
  • The doors all open inward instead of outward.
  • There is ZERO AIR CONDITIONING. Honestly. None. Oh mon Dieu. Instead, the French like to open their windows to get the old air out of the room.

These are but a few of the many cultural differences I have experienced. The last note I’d like to make is that Paris is truly a feast for the eyes. Every afternoon after class, we go out in groups and walk around on little excursions. I never know whether to look out at the little shops lining the streets, over at the gorgeous Parisians on their way to meet up with friends, or up and the architecture of apartments and buildings with intricate details and flowers in the windows. I rarely know where I’m going, but finding historic monuments, charming parks, and gorgeous buildings just seems to happen when walking the streets of Paris.  The photos below depict some of the places I have come across. On future outings, I promise to be more specific with my photo-taking (I’m still trying to keep the fact that I’m an obnoxious American tourist on the down-low), but for now, here is but a small taste of the perfection that is Paris.

Paris has tons of little vintage shops.
A casual side street.
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It’s nice to know that other people in Paris besides myself need a map.
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One of the many parks I’ve walked by.
Paris has tons of outdoor markets.
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The Paroisse Saint-Paul Saint-Louis. Again, there are loads of really old, really gorgeous churches everywhere.

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