I'm getting to know this old town Paris. Scratching the surface at least. I've drank a lot of bad coffee, along with the occasional good one. I've met some amazing people and some very funny ones (not funny ha-ha). I've pushed a cumbersome double pram around many a skinny street. I've navigated public transport (no small feat with 2 small ones), French TV, red tape and their (quite) early learning system. I've stumbled across breathtaking views when I least expect it - often enough to remind me where we are and how lucky we are to be having this experience. It's this getting-to-know-you-process that's led me to notice a few things. Differences, if you will.
Warning. Disclaimer. Pardon.*
*gross generalisations ahead.
1. French Women Don’t Get Fat. (What, somebody else noticed this?).
2. French Kids Don't Throw Food. (This title got lost in translation - it meant to read French Kids Are Neither Seen Nor Heard).
3. Smoking is still socially acceptable - cool even.
4. Fashion before comfort. Always. Unless we're talking about skivvies.
5. Fur is fine. Faux fur is a faux pas.
6. Parisians will always kindly hold the door for you. But not long enough for you to actually get through!
7. Public pash-a-thons are OK. In Oz-Town, PDA (public display of affection) is generally reserved for frisky teens, and the phrase “get a room” is thrown around a lot. Not so in Paris. It really is the city of raunch - ahem - romance.
8. Paris peeps do not wear sneakers.
9. They do not DO active wear.
10. They DO do exercise, just not in your typical walking, jogging, sit-ups kind of way. I’ve seen folk dancing the waltz alone, overhead kettle-bell flinging, pretend push-ups and those bad-for-you bouncing stretches the rest of the world ditched in the late ’80s. They do however, seem to be ahead of the pack with the latest in Aqua-Biking and Solarium Tanning technologies.
11. Before arriving in Paris I was warned that the French can be aloof, unfriendly, “hard nuts to crack”. Either this is a falsehood or I’m good at cracking nuts. Although I haven’t accounted for the ones I might lose after posting this blog.
12. People tend to socialise outdoors, no matter the weather. With space at an expensive premium in Paris, apartments are small and gardens are only for the well-off or lucky. People meet up and hang out at bars, cafes, parks and “places” (where streets meet). Locals talk to locals - you couldn't avoid those familiar faces even if you wanted to. I love this about Paris. I don’t know how I’ll ever be without the “village” lifestyle ever again.
13. The French work harder than you might think. True, they start late, take long lunches and have more holidays than most in the developed world. But their workloads are intense, many come home well after dinner, and then carry on working evenings/weekends. 50-60h work weeks are common.
14. Nobody EVER goes home without a fresh baguette tucked under their arm.
15. I have not seen Doritos ANYWHERE. Ditto crunchy tacos, hoisin sauce, strong tea bags, self-raising flour, fine brown sugar and golden syrup. Don't even think about finding tamarind sauce. Walnuts only come in whole shell costume or in 200g packets that cost €5.50. WHAT.
16. Customers are sometimes right but more often… wrong. And bloody annoying in fact dammit why are they even here?
17. Most supermarkets and grocers - whilst lacking numerous "life" essentials (see point 16) have these awesome things ↓
18. Drivers before pedestrians. “Pedestrian” crossings should be called “screech to a halt reluctantly but only if damage to bonnet is imminent "crossings.
19. Parisian streets are beautiful. Just don’t look down - the amount of piss, poo and spew is the shock that just keeps on shocking. On second thoughts - LOOK DOWN ALWAYS LOOK DOWN.
20. They have proper meals for lunch. Vegemite sandwiches are considered a form of child neglect and offenders may be reported to authorities.
21. There are less iPads attached to children.
22. Kids scoot almost before they can walk. And it's so bloody cute!
23. Phones that are not smart still exist and are used by actual normal people.
24. All wine bottles are corked. No cheaty twisty caps anywhere.
25. Cheques are still accepted. Even encouraged. Even in supermarkets! Even at IKEA!
26. Appearance is important - but not when it has to do with one’s car. Dents, scrapes and missing tail-lights are worn by all vehicles as Parisian badges of honour.
27. Parisians are amazingly resourceful when it comes to parking. 0.02mm is an acceptable distance to leave between 2 cars. Also acceptable is parking in the middle of roundabouts, ditto double-parking.
28. Public barneys are common (I've witnessed several - including a shop assistant who threatened to punch a customer's head in for arriving at closing time, some other shop assistants fighting loudly amongst themselves in front of many stunned customers who just wanted their goods scanned, road-rage, lover's tiffs, I could go on).
29. If you do not say "merci" and "au revoir" at least three times before leaving a shop you are considered a very rude foreign person.
30. It is customary to give said foreign person a soul-shivering death stare for forgetting the 3rd "merci". Foreign person ear-marked to be greeted with a fed-up sigh on their next visit.
31. If you fail to put a hat, scarf and gloves on your child in the middle of winter you will receive numerous long lectures from random older ladies (even if they're wearing snow coats and it's 11 degrees and you are literally going to the bakery next door).
32. People still read books. On the metro, at the bar, while they walk. Books books books.
33. People take pride in their work. My butcher lovingly prepares and wraps my boeuf bourguignon with so much fanfare it's as if the bible had said it was “frankincense, myrrh and chuck steak.”
34. Wine is serious business. Wanky wine talk is not considered wanky at all.
35. Art is serious business. In Australia, art is seen as an indulgence. In France it is as equally important as reading, writing and arithmetic.
36. I never hear anyone whinging about their homes - “I need more space”. A phrase thrown around by ALL Australians, regardless of the size of their gardens/pools/estates.
37. Bakeries are amazing, no kidding. But where are all the snot-blocks, apple cakes, coffee scrolls, pies and sausage rolls?
38. Some things are amazingly cheap, some things crazy expensive. I accidentally bought an organic hot chicken for €33. 16 tubs of yoghurt at my local supermarkets costs €1.65. Ham is €3 per slice, but a wheel of Camembert cheese is €2.10!
39. Parisians nail the style-stakes. No doubt. EXCEPT. They wear UGG boots outdoors. In public spaces. In wet weather. WHY PARIS WHY.
40. McLaren or YoYo are apparently the only strollers available in Paris. Which one are you?
41. They don’t eat in public unless in a restaurant or cafe. It’s considered uncouth (or so I gather). I once attempted to eat a sandwich on the metro and was shamed into saving it for ‘RON. I then dropped it on the floor and had to clean it with a tissue but that's another story.
42. Kids clothing is sooooo cute. I mean LOOK at these shoes - and the rest!
To sum it up, Paris is different, it's unYOOsual. It is also NOICE.
Seriously though, it’s wonderful and I’m loving it. Right now I’m on the 3rd floor of the local library. I’m sitting by the window and the winter sun is landing on (and warming) my left cheek. Looking upwards I have a view of century old buildings, balconies and chimney tops. Down below I see winter trees with a hint of new bloom, parked scooters and canopied cafes. C'est tres beau.
Do you have any Parisian quirks to add to the list? Does your town have it's own unique trademarks of culture? Tell me, I'd love to hear about them!