Side note: I deliberated for ages over the grammatical accuracy of the title. This is the aesthetic version – ‘do’s and don’t’s’ and ‘dos and don’ts’ just looked ugly…
I know I’ve posted this picture before but… I love it!
When I tell people at home that I’m living in Paris, I get the ‘Oh my God – you must be having an amaaazing time!’. I play along with this predictable conversation to indulge in their Parisian fantasy and allow them a few moments to dream about life in the Capital of Love. And also so as not to completely kill the conversation in the hairdressing chair. But the truth is, Paris is an often overwhelming city to visit, never mind live in. Coming from Liverpool, Paris is a bit of a shock to the nerves, and sometimes I feel like I want to drop everything in the middle of the street and run to the airport. Then I give myself a stern talking to and march with the crowd back to my flat, make a cup of tea and take a few deep breaths. So, in order to survive life in this frantic city, I’ve compiled a bit of a list that help me handle, if not master (I hope!) the art of Parisian living.
Do: check out travel time before setting off, and if you’re taking the metro, give yourself 10 minutes breathing time to suss out metro stations, especially if you need to change. Compare how long it takes to take public transport and to walk – if there’s a 5 minute difference then walk! You get to know the city and find your bearings, discover unusual boutiques or cafés by accident and stumble across some breath-taking views. When I first moved here, each day I left my apartment and walked in a different direction. If I hadn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have found places like Le Marais and Rue Montorgueil, or realised how close I lived to the Île de la Cité! You may get sore feet (see don’t #3), but it’s worth it!
Do: carry this handy little guide with you everywhere you go. I keep it with me at all times, because you never know when you may end up stranded in an unfamiliar arrondissement with no internet for Google Maps to save you! It costs about 7€ and it comes in different colours (cute!) and it has an RER/Metro/Tram/Bus map, a mini guide to all the tourist attractions and maps of the city. It’s divided up into little sections to make it easier to find where you are! It has honestly saved my life on many an occasion, even if it has completely ruined my ‘I’m not a tourist’ pretence.
Do: use a bag that’s zip-able and be vigilant. I prefer to carry quite a big bag, across my shoulder and kept in front of me at all times. Unfortunately, pick-pockets are all too real, and my friend had her phone stolen when she was taking the metro. You can never be too careful!
Don’t: succumb to speaking English. It is true that it’s harder to practice your French in Paris, as it’s inundated with English-speaking tourists who can barely mumble ‘bonjour’. It is often assumed that I’m just another tourist, but after I persist in speaking French for 2-3 sentences, it soon becomes clear that I really am trying to speak the lingo, and I get a bit of a smile and responses in French. Even if you’re not too confident – persist and show willingness and the confidence will eventually come. Making mistakes is not the end of the world, and this is the only way you will learn! Also, if you get an immediate response in French, you know you’re starting to improve, which has happened to me a few times so – hoorah!
Don’t: (sorry all feminists) dress too ‘provocatively’. Be mindful of what you’re wearing and where you’re going, especially if you know you’ll be getting the metro back late at night on your own. Invest in a long coat if you want to wear a short skirt (which is what I do – I love a good mini skirt). I have found that attitudes towards women are different here, and it’s perfectly common for a man to eye you up, make comments and sometimes get touchy-feely. And nobody will bat an eyelid. Of course, I am a huge believer that, as women, we should be able to wear what we want without hesitation. However, at the end of the day, I’m on my own in an unfamiliar city, why take my chances? Oh- resting bitch face also often helps with this problem!
Don’t: bother with heels. Seriously. Remember that lovely little tip I gave you about walking? This isn’t going to be too pleasant when your blisters are giving you hell and the balls of your feet are on fire. Forget about fashion (just this once) and opt for comfort. Also, I hate to break it to you, but you’ll look like a fucking idiot. I can count on one hand how many women I’ve seen wearing heels in Paris since I arrived – dressing up like we do at home just isn’t a thing here (and across most of Europe). If anything, heeled boots are an acceptable option if you’re going out, but nothing more than 3-4 inches if you want to make it home alive on the metro, and definitely no stilettos!
I hope that these rules make your life in Paris slightly easier, either as a tourist or inhabitant. I found that after a month or so, I could start to make my own!
P.S: Here is a funny picture I found on the internet. So true!