Bonjour mes belles personnes, comment allez-vous aujourd’hui!?
That’s French for “…’sup?” Just tryna fancy up the blog a lil’ bit. And in that spirit, I’m taking the week off. Well, not actually off. No such thing exists where blogging does. Really I’m just busy as a
bee blogger (I should ™ that) doing some behind the scenes ass-kicking and preparing for an upcoming trip. And I’ve got barre at 4:30 soo… yeah…
So this week I’ve recruited help to keep you all entertained and looking busy at work. I picked up Mandie off the streets of Paris (coughFacebook) and asked her to write y’all a little sumpin’ sumpin’.
So here she be — see you next week!
Hi! My name is Mandie! I’m originally from Indianapolis, Indiana but now I live and work in Paris, France. I went on my first trip to Paris in March of 2012 and in May of that same year, with only $200 in my pocket, I moved to the City of Lights. I am currently an English teacher and a freelance translator and writer. I love traveling to new places, meeting new people and taking too many photographs. If I’m not traveling or working then I’m reading, baking or doing some sort of art. Follow along on my adventure on Instagram @mandiemarie19 or check out my blog: Presque Perfection.
8 PHASES OF CULTURE SHOCK IN PARIS
There is no doubt about it, Paris is magic. Paris is just one of those cities. The City of Light. The City of Love. The city of wine and smelly cheese and plastic light up Eiffel Tower keychains. Paris is on every travel “bucket list” ever made by any girl who has seen Passport to Paris (thanks Mary-Kate and Ashley) and any guy who hopes it will score him brownie points with his significant other. But before you pack your bags and your friends all wish you a “bon voyage” you should be well aware of the various phases of culture shock in Paris–here in the land of bread and chocolate for breakfast and consequently inexplicably skinny people.
01 | WHAT IN THE HELL IS EVERYONE SAYING?
You step off the plane and all of the sudden you understand literally nothing. You kick yourself for not having downloaded Duolingo sooner. The four hours on the airplane you spent desperately trying to “brush up” on your two years of middle school French were seemingly wasted. You recall yourself sitting smugly in your little airplane seat pronouncing “une pomme” and smiling to yourself. Une Pomme?! WHY THE HELL WAS I WASTING MY TIME LEARNING ABOUT APPLES INSTEAD OF LEARNING THE IMPORTANT SHIT? “My suitcase is lost.” “Where is the bathroom?” “How do I get to the Eiffel Tower?” “I would like an entire bottle of wine please. No, just the one glass. Thank you.”
You find yourself damning the American educational system. Why didn’t it stress the importance of learning a second language? These French people are speaking so much faster than you could have ever anticipated and at the first sign of non-comprehension, they switch to such heavily accented English that they might as well be speaking Russian. “Ave yoo gote yore passporte?” You shuffle through the customs line and feel like a little bit of a failure. This is normal.
02 | OH MY GOD–EVERYTHING I PACKED IS WRONG.
Once you’ve cleared customs, you take a look around. Your stomach drops when you see all these fabulous French people in their natural habitat. Not only have you been packing for this vacation for a month, but you’ve been pinning “Parisian style” wardrobe ideas on the internet basically since the invention of Pinterest. Mariner stripes, black cigarette pants, scarves, maybe a trench coat. Yes, you’ve packed it all.
Somehow you still look frumpy in comparison to the chic Parisians that you see all around you. They are all impossibly put together and yet somehow effortlessly cool. They wear flawless outfits but their hair is a mess. They carry this season’s brand new Birkin but wear thrift store boyfriend jeans. How? They look like they just rolled out of bed but still look more amazing than you on your best day.
A tourist in Paris almost always ends up looking one of two ways in comparison to these perfect human specimens: 1. looking like you tried WAY too hard or 2. looking like you threw clothes into your suitcase in the dark in a 10 minute mad dash before a hectic cab ride to the airport.
Let me help you: just stop comparing yourself. Parisians are, in fact, effortlessly, impossibly, frustratingly perfect.
>> YOU MIGHT LIKE ⇢ What to Pack for London & Paris in the Winter (for Real People) <<
03 | WAIT, EVERYONE HERE IS SO GOOD-LOOKING!
This goes hand in hand with their style but you also soon notice that Paris is full of extremely beautiful people. The men all wear Italian loafers and suit jackets with their coiffed hair that seems to defy gravity; the women flaunt dark red lips and messy hair that looks like they’ve just left their lover’s apartment. They all look like they’ve stepped out of a magazine and you find yourself anxiously sweating around a seemingly normal human who is just living their life and buying a croissant. But somehow this is the hottest person you’ve ever seen with your actual eyeballs. You know it for a fact.
You then panic a bit because EVEN IF this actual demigod turns around to speak to you, you remember that all you know how to say in French is “une pomme” from Duolingo and “voulez-vous coucher avec moi” from Moulin Rouge. On second thought, that’s not a bad start?
04 | WHY IS EVERYONE DRY HUMPING IN THIS CAFÉ?
As previously stated, French people are seriously good looking. Like, two t’s hott. They walk around in their perfect clothing with their perfect bone structure living their perfect lives. You snap out of your daze, wipe the drool off your chin and then realize something. You glance around and notice that all around you Parisians are giving each other intense bedroom eyes. EVERYONE looks like they are about to Marvin Gaye.
The couple at the table next to you starts making out so aggressively that you can’t look away but you also can’t comprehend this level of PDA in a restaurant at lunch time so you start worrying that maybe they’re actually giving each other mouth-to-mouth. You keep side eyeing them–you know, for safety’s sake. Just in case. It’s like a really sexy train wreck you can’t look away from.
Across the café, a girl is sitting on her boyfriend’s lap despite a number of very available chairs. They start nuzzling each other and you feel like you’re observing some sort of intimate moment reserved for an evening in front of their fireplaces while Netflix and not chilling. You’re slightly jealous of the insane passion that is unfolding between these two impeccable creatures at 12:30 pm in a brasserie and yet also slightly disturbed.
05 | #HUMBLEBRAG
You pull yourself away from the montage of beautiful people licking each other and become aware of the beauty that is Paris itself. The Haussmannian architecture, the monuments, the quaint cafés, the dog shit on the sidewalk; it’s all so “Paris” that you can’t stand it. You suddenly morph into Ansel Adams if his camera were actually an iPhone 6 with a cracked screen and take so many pictures that your phone (already low on storage, of course) fills up. You desperately delete, delete, delete so you can get one more angle of your coffee on the terrace.
You have strangers take your picture in front of monuments; you photograph windows and balconies, doors, shops, homeless people, and the Eiffel tower from absolutely every angle. You are that person stopping every five feet to take a photo. Parisians bump into you, they knock you over, they ‘tisssss’ under their breath at you but you don’t care because you’ve finally captured the perfect shot for your Instagram. You spend hours coming up with the perfect hashtags and upload all of your photos to elicit insane jealousy from all your friends back home. Take that, girl who once studied abroad in Florence and never shuts up about it.
06 | THE DAYDREAMER
Once you’ve settled in and feel more comfortable, your mind starts to wander. You are in the city of love and lights and see yourself as the protagonist in an edgy French film. You fantasize about never going back to your normal life and of emailing your boss “SUCK IT, I QUIT” from a 5th floor balcony overlooking Notre Dame. In your mind you become a mysterious expatriate living your best life.
You might be running away from all of your problems or maybe you’re so wealthy that you flew in just for Paris Fashion Week. You imagine one of the many attractive French people in your proximity seducing you, whisking you away on their moped. You learn French, you learn how to cook, you learn the art of the unaffected Parisian shrug. You drink wine on a rooftop at 3 pm on a Wednesday, you party until 5 in the morning, you write a novel on the banks of the Seine.
You get the feeling that you can actually be alive in Paris and you float on this feeling all the way to the nearest restaurant for dinner.
07 | DEHYDRATION
You sit down to dinner and the waiter brings you a carafe of water. A small one. You suddenly realize how thirsty you are. You down the entire thing and, while waiting for the waiter to bring another, wonder why you’re so parched. You ask yourself, “when was the last time I drank water?” You figure it was probably on the airplane to Paris.
Your previous days’ walking all over the city flash before you and you realize the only liquids that have gone into your body are coffee and wine–the norm for Parisians. You suddenly understand that the French are not rude, as everyone stereotypes them to be, but they’re likely just extremely dehydrated.
You look around in a panic only to find your waiter leaning against the bar, talking to the bartender. This continues for another 10 minutes while you desperately try to catch his eye. He is in no hurry. In fact, he knows you’re trying to get his attention and that’s precisely the reason he ignores you. He eventually comes over so you can order more water (and wine, because duh).
08 | THAT THING WHERE YOUR FACE IS NO LONGER YOUR FACE
At dinner, your waiter sets all the food down and you squeak out a small and sheepish “merci” as you open your camera to take a picture of your dinner (see phase #5). To your horror, the front camera is on. You scream and drop your phone into your tartare. WHERE DID ALL THOSE CHINS COME FROM?! Your face is unrecognizable and kind of terrifying. You have what feels like a hundred chins.
You calm yourself and think that maybe it’s a new Snapchat filter, but it isn’t. It is the direct result of entire meals consisting of bread, dessert plates that are just cheese, and the fact that, in general, most food in France is cooked in either some sort of cream, oil, or butter. This is your face now. Get used to it. It happens to the best of us.
These 8 phases of culture shock in Paris come and go at various times on your first trip and occasionally on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th trips etc. At least now you know they’re coming. You can breathe easy knowing all these phases are completely normal and that even seasoned tourists can feel a bit thrown by the French and Parisians in particular. So go ahead, book that ticket, make some room in your iPhone, and pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate your upcoming trip. And maybe download Duolingo.
Merci beaucoup, Mandie!
Don’t forget to check out more of her pretty pictures of Paris on Instagram.
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