The French have no guilt about taking cuts in a line. Get in line and block out your position, or they’ll sneak right past you.
You can’t get an eBoarding pass on an international flight from Air France.
I have seen some nasty NASTY feet on the Metro here, usually on men. Normally, I look down on the subway, since eye contact with certain men will get you followed. Tonight there was a pair of feet so bad, though, I had to stare at the ceiling to keep from gagging.
The credit card swipers don’t work that well here. So don’t panic if your card doesn’t work, just keep re-swiping it. Frequently, it takes 5-6 swipes, I’d say more often than not.
I meet a lot of men of Iranian descent in Paris.
Been in Paris seven weeks. Today I saw my first SUV and my first pair of sweat pants here.
If you’re only going to be in Paris for a month or less, I’d recommend getting the Pimsleur French language series rather than Rosetta Stone. Pimsleur is more conversational in nature, and has some English instruction to supplement the lessons instead of full immersion. Rosetta Stone is more vocabulary-driven in the early stages. I’ve done both, and I find I use the stuff I learned from Pimsleur much more often.
Nobody goes out alone here in the evenings. Even the single men are nearly always out with a friend. The single women, always with a friend.
“Those Were the Days” and “Speak Softly, Love” are very popular with French street musicians. Can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard them.
The police here crack me up. Much better gig than in the States. Other than in the train stations, they don’t seem to worry about their own safety that much. They even ride bikes!
Most of the men here carry man purses.
Take a pocket translator with you for grocery shopping and dining out. Often words you think you recognize will mean something else: ananas = pineapple, coco = coconut, etc. You’ll still have many surprises. Entrees are appetizers. And squid is considered a white fish! (Note: don’t count on your phone app translator to work; most places don’t have wifi.)
If you’re at a restaurant and the whole table next to you suddenly gets up and walks out, leaving their food, don’t assume something is amiss. Smoking indoors in restaurants is banned in Paris, so people just get up in the middle of their meal, several times, and go outside for 10 minutes to smoke then come back.
If you ask someone if they speak English, the answer will almost inevitably be, “un peu. (a little)” Often, their English is pretty good. Often, it is not. However, if they think they speak excellent English, be prepared that in many cases, it will be unintelligible, often due to pronunciation.
Everywhere in Paris, there are people with rolling suitcases. Most of them are tourists, but I think some of them might be Parisians out at the market. At the entrance to Notre Dame, there’s even an icon next to the common “No Flash” photography sign that is a crossed-out rolling suitcase.
Look out for backpacks on the Metro. People are not careful about slamming into you with them at all.
Can’t remember the last time I saw or heard an accordion in the US, but they’re everywhere here, particularly on the subways. In fact on the subways, they seem to be the instrument of choice. Not sure why.
After 6 weeks here, I just noticed there’s a little icon in the subways next to the exit signs that is a picture of an escalator, denoting which “sortie” has an escalator. Would have been nice before I climbed those 100 steps in Montmartre!
The motorcycles here are LOUD! I don’t know if it’s a difference in mechanics or if perhaps the noise just bounces more off buildings when they’re closer together, but they’re deafening.
Taxi service is unreliable. I booked a private service to pick me up at the airport. They forgot. Nobody answered the phone in their offices, either. A curbside attendant told me that it is a typical occurrence for taxis and private cab services to not show up.
People are always lost in Paris. Every single day that I’ve been here, someone has stopped me and asked for directions.
There are panhandlers on almost every other street corner and in every subway station.
There are way fewer bugs here than back home. I wondered how people could leave the windows wide open without screens, and now I know.
Almost every corner of Paris is so beautiful. If you think you will remember a street corner by its beauty, you’re likely to get lost. I’ve been lost a lot.
French people yell and argue on the street a lot more than in America.
The French are into PDAs. Couples sit really close together in restaurants. They hold hands on the street. They kiss in public. Often.
The opera here is closed in August. The Folies Bergere is closed in August. Many businesses are closed here in August. The French get a lot of vacation time, and many of them flee the city to get away from the tourists in August.
Most of the doors here to shops open inward.
The subways are quite reliable and relatively clean. The 7, the 1, the 4, the 3, RER B … all pretty clean, considering. The 9 is old and filthy.
Evidently if a woman is alone and she smiles at a man as she walks by, or returns a salutation, that isn’t just friendly or polite. Many men here will think it means you want to have sex. Since I naturally smile a lot and am friendly, I have to watch it. I’ve been followed in the subways and down the street by men asking me to go out with them.
There’s water running down along the streets of Paris in many places. Sometimes that’s because they’re washing the streets. But sometimes it’s sewer overflow. Step carefully.
If someone in a train station asks you if you speak English, in English, say no and move on. It’s almost certainly someone trying to scam you.
On grocery store items, the packaging here is more eco-friendly. But other than that it sucks, especially in terms of functionality. Yogurt cups explode, packages are hard to open, cans leak, instructions are terrible, photos are bad, plastic is thin.
There are water “fountains” on the back of the public toilet booths in the street.
I understand why half the light bulbs are out in my apartment. The cheapest incandescent bulb I could find was around $6.50 American.
American men are way less charming than French men, but a big up to American men for having far better manners. In 6 weeks here of constantly riding the subway, I’ve only seen three French men give up their seats to the elderly or moms with kids. I’ve also been shoved and pushed by many men in the stations and in the subway cars.
They don’t pick up after their dogs in the 10th arrondisement. Way more poo in the streets here than in other districts.
The police drive around in tiny cars, four to a car, two in the front, two in back. Guess they’re not thinking they’ll have to arrest anyone.
No parking meters on the streets. Parking is free on the streets. There do appear to be lots underground. Guessing they’re not free, but I didn’t drive here, so I don’t know.
The pickpockets are so bad, many French people wear their backpacks in the front.
Lardons are bacon bits.
The money. Coins are useful, bills are bigger as they go up in value. So are the coins.
St. Paul and St. Michel are not the same station. Learned the hard way. Verify and recheck, don’t think you’ll just remember it. Many of the stations have similar names. Lots of them start with Saint.
The rosé wine is much better here. Not sweet at all, just mild and perfect.
Most streets in Paris are one-way. If they are two-way, they are usually boulevards.
The drinking glasses here are small. You won’t find any tall tumblers, even at Monoprix (their version of Target). Also, the silverware sets seem to come only with big soup spoons and tiny teaspoons, almost demitasse size.
You should pay attention when shopping in Paris; many things either aren’t marked or are mistakenly marked. It happens a lot. It’s how I ended up with a magazine that cost $25. I’ve also had a few cashiers overcharge me.
The tax is already included in the price here. So is the tip at restaurants unless the menu says service non compromise. This may account for some of the rude waiters. Despite this, I still find most are very nice. I’ve yet to run into a rude female waitress.
For some reason, subway stations are much less frequent near the Eiffel tower than down by the Louvre. If you see one, get on it and figure out your route from there, or you’ll be walking a long time before you see another.
Something I experienced when I was here last time … the disappearing Eiffel Tower. You’ll be walking along, using it as your guide. And then, suddenly, despite its height, it’s gone from view.
Because none of the streets run in a north/east/south/west square grid, you’ll frequently find yourself walking in a circle.
There are many streets named Faubourg. They are not parts of the same street, and many of them are also close together. Faubourg means suburb or neighborhood. God only knows why they also have named so many of their streets Poissionniere (fish).
I’ve yet to see a public drinking fountain. There are little fountains occasionally where you can refill a water bottle or wash your hands, but it’s just a stream of downward water, not something you could easily sip.
Always thought that old-timey siren you hear in movies that have European storylines was made up. Nope; it’s for real. Because my apartment is near a hospital, I hear it every day.
If a store offers to charge something to your card in dollars, ask the exchange rate or look at the figure they offer you carefully. I found it didn’t save me at all, the store just added the same fee that the big banks would have, and kept it for themselves.
The French don’t sleep with flat/cover sheets, just the fitted sheet. At least in my apartment, that’s the case.
Apples and potatoes … same word, pomme and pomme de terre. potato = apple of the earth
They don’t put crossing signs on many of the one-way, one-lane streets.
Motorcycles can drive on the lines and in between cars. Sometimes they drive on the sidewalks.
They have bike lanes on the sidewalks where the sidewalks are deep.
Your wireless might not work. If it works, it will likely go out.
Not everybody speaks English, not even close. Many speak just enough to complete a transaction, but at least half the time, it is not easy.
Sometimes you have to weigh your own produce at the grocery store, and it prints out a tag that you stick on the fruits and veggies yourself.
Crème means ice cream, not coffee cream.
It is embarrassing to have somebody correct your grammar, particularly when you are a writer.
If you are a woman alone, sooner or later, a Frenchman will try to pick you up. Probably sooner.
French people do not know about electric fans. They aren’t common here, which is surprising, since air conditioning is also harder to find.
French men are charming. There is no correlation between wealth or education and sophistication here.
You need a photo of yourself to get a month-long Metro Pass, “Navigo.”
Even on a grey day, it is beautiful in Paris.
Reading network connection info in a foreign language is difficult.
Flirting in a foreign language is fun, but taxing the longer it goes on. Constantly consulting the translation book is definitely a damper.
The ground floor in Paris is 0, not 1.
Wifi is not as common in Paris as it is in the US. Maybe 1 in 20 restaurants has it, including coffee shops.
Reading directions for appliances and electronics in French is a bitch!
Capers are cheap here. The reason capers are cheap here is because they are actually little peas in a jar. Who sells peas in a jar? The French do!
Food in general seems to be a bit less expensive than in America. But only in the grocery stores. Restaurants and everything else seems to be more expensive. Converse tennis shoes, $20 in America, are $50-$85 here!
Lots of traffic, but it moves along much faster than in NY or LA.