When I decided to move to Paris, I did tons of research and thought I was well prepared. Life has thrown me a few curveballs since I’ve arrived and I found out that I didn’t know everything! Not even close.
7 things I’ve Learned Since Moving to the City of Light:
1. Air conditioning is NOT everywhere. If you arrive in the summer, prepare to be hot for months on end.
When visiting Europe, it’s easy to forget that air conditioning is not the norm. As a tourist, you’re often splitting your time between a hotel and various attractions like the Louvre. Even if you’re in an air-conditionless Airbnb, the tourist sites you frequent will give you the chill you need in the hot summer months.
Not so much once you live here. When I arrived, I was shocked to find that my temporary housing, a hostel, was air-conditionless. Ok, no big deal – when I get to school, I’ll cool off. Nope! None of the school buildings have air conditioning either. None of the buses have it and none of the metro trains either. To cool off, I found myself wandering around in department stores – the only places with strong air conditioning to combat the 90 degree temps. Most places that did have air conditioning only provided a paltry, slightly warm breeze. My suggestion? Ride the air-conditioned RER trains in the summer (but not all of them are air-conditioned!).
If you’re like me and would like a fan, fans are sold at a premium here. I paid 60 euros for a fan – I can’t sleep without one – and boy was I surprised that I had to assemble it myself!
Keep this in mind if you visit in the summer months!
2. Bees are everywhere – the worldwide bee shortage doesn’t affect Paris.
This also something that’s specific to spring/summer in Paris. As much as I loved lunching on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower and having study picnics in the Jardin de Luxembourg, more often than not, I was run off by bees. Never in my life have I seen a city with so many bees.
Paris is famous for its many outdoor markets – I’ve often admired the fruit stands but never bought anything because of the bees! Bees are often crawling all over the fruit, so only the brave reach out. Many fruit sellers put a bucket of fruit juice next to their stand, so that the bees are attracted to that and leave the fruit alone.
The bees are even on the desserts in patisseries! They’re everywhere. Here’s an article from the Peacock Plume that explains a bit about why Paris is under siege by bees.
As someone who’s never been stung by a bee, it took more than a little time to get used to it. After a month or two of living here, bees can land on your skin without you flinching.
3. French men are easy to meet – but French women are hard to meet/befriend.
To be fair, this is something that I’ve heard before moving to France. I simply didn’t believe it and hoped it wasn’t true! As a culture, French people tend to make close friends at a young age and stay within their tight circle. It’s hard to penetrate that circle, but even tougher when you’re an expat. I’ve had countless French people ask me “how long is your visa/how long are you staying?” as a way to see how invested they should be in a budding friendship.
As a woman, meeting French men isn’t difficult (for obvious reasons) but meeting French women and befriending them is a different ballgame. One way that many expats meet and befriend French people are through expat meetups. As bizarre as it sounds, expat meetups often have a large number of local French attendees. Why do they attend? I’ve asked a few and it’s normally French people who have lived abroad and miss being in an international setting. It’s a great compromise between meeting and befriending French people.
4. Winter darkness in Paris is considerably worse than I anticipated – worse than NYC!
Winter time in Paris is beautiful – beautiful and dark. Being a former New Yorker, I shrugged off when people told me that Paris gets incredibly dark and depressing in the winter. In New York, I was used to the sun going down early in December and January and felt adequately prepared. Nope! Not so.
In New York winters, it’s common that the sun comes up around 7am and sets around 4:30pm. In Paris, the sun doesn’t come up until close to 9am and sets around 5pm. The result? Sluggish mornings and early evenings. It’s very hard to get motivated for the day when it’s pitch black when you wake up!
Thankfully, the payoff is 16 hours of sunlight in June – needless to say I cannot wait for summer!
5. Gastro is a thing and it is REAL.
When I first arrived, a friend told me that her friend’s coworker (yes one of those friend of a friend of a friend stories) had a stomach bug so painful that he was throwing himself against walls. It sounded incredulous to me – what could possibly be that bad?
Introducing – gastroenteritis, commonly called “gastro” in France. Gastro is a stomach bug – one that I’m sure must exist other places – that makes people violently ill and spreads like an epidemic. Gastro comes around every year in France, typically in January. This year, gastro came early, appearing in November. Doctors advise you wash your hands often to avoid gastro. Why does it spread so much in France? Not sure. But ever since I’ve heard of gastro, I live in fear of one day getting it!
6. Buying bottled water in America is a swindle!
Although bottled water is unnecessary in France and most places in America (not Flint, Michigan, sadly), it’s one of my most frequent purchases. However, I was shocked when I saw the prices of bottled water in France.
Back home, bottled water starts at about $1.50 for a 20 oz – in the grocery store. If you’re on the streets of NYC, it can run you as high as $3.00. Here, you can buy a 20 oz for about 1,50 on the street, but if you go to the grocery store, you can buy a 50 oz for .19. Yes, you read that right, you can get 50 ounces of bottled water for NINETEEN CENTIMES.
7. French Dogs are EXTREMELY well-behaved.
I’m sure this one might upset a few people, but I’m going to commit to it! Dogs in France are very rarely seen on leashes. When I first arrived, I would instantly become wary of off-leash dogs (considering how many people have misbehaving dogs in NYC). Over time, I noticed that these dogs were happily walking beside their owners, stopping at every curb and never approaching strangers.
In a country with no PetSmart for dog obedience school, how are all these dogs so well-behaved? I’m not sure what French owners are doing, but they need to transfer their doggie discipline methods to the United States. Although the dogs are often off-leash, they are legally required to be on one. There are no dedicated dog parks but apparently it hasn’t stopped dogs from enjoying and living their best lives in Paris!
I don’t have a Parian pup (yet) but here’s some reading material for those that want to know more about having a dog in Paris.
Are you an expat living in Paris? What have you learned since arriving here?
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