mercredi 20 août 2014

How to blend in Paris ?

I have been thinking of writing this post for a long time now. Why ? would you wonder
Because every year I see my favorite city crowded with tourists who don't have a clue.
First maybe not to conquer, but to inform, I should divide my audience.
If you don't want to go over clichés, if you just want to stay with the mass of tourists without getting to know any parisians, without willing to experiment and see another point of view that your own, stop reading and you'll spend your stay queueing...
If you want to really discover Paris and not to be judged as a « don't have a clue tourist » you can go on reading me.

  Three rules are to be followed if you don't want to be scorned.

I have read on tourists comments that French people aren't nice, that around the Eiffel tower there are no cafeterias for tourists... PARIS IS NOT DISNEYLAND, Paris wasn't designed for tourists, people really live and work in this city, and the city is designed for those who work and live there.
So you must know that French people are proud and even though their job is to be the tourists bitches, they want to be treated like human being, and to be polite when being in a foreign country is to talk the essential words of politeness in the natives' language.
Always start your conversations by « Bonjour » and before starting to talk in English as if it was the only language in the world ask if the person you're talking to is speaking English : « parlez-vous anglais ? » if your mother tongue is not English ask the person if they speak your language, maybe you'd be interested to know that a large majority of French people also speaks spanish which, as it is a latin language, is easier for us to learn.
Of course you'll say « merci » even if the person speaks English when you'll be provided with your information, or after buying your baguette...
and when you leave « Au revoir »
Don't pretend it's too difficult, I went to Check republic and learnt those words in Check which is much more difficult to pronounce than French, some people even started conversations in check with me, because even in a foreign country I tend to blend. Blending doesn't mean that you are loosing your identity, it means that you can learn, enriched yourself, adapt, and be a clever dude !
So the magic words are BONJOUR ( hello), AU REVOIR (good bye), PARDON ( excuse me), MERCI (thank you), DÉSOLÉ (sorry), and PARLEZ-VOUS ANGLAIS ? (do you speak english?)
Just with that, you'll see that a world will open to you !
(the links lead you to the right pronunciation)

Walk fast, and keep your right in the corridors, stairs and escalators of public transportation. Try not to be loud, especially when the rest of the metro is quiet, always remember that people work, and that not everyone is in holidays.

Please, please, please, don't dress like tourists ! Don't wear fanny bags, back pack on the front, crocs, running shoes with jeans ; tee shirts, hat, umbrellas with Paris written on them, don't dress as if you were at the mountain or at the sea, dress as if you were going to buy clothes in your own city. Avoid sport shirts, bermudas, you are in the world capital of fashion for christ's sake. Dear tourists you're hurting my eyes ! And keep your shirt on ! You don't have to be fancy, it can be equally ridicule.

I have lived here for 17 years and only twice people tried to rob me, they just tried.
So the rule is not to be afraid to leave the crowd of tourists behind, and explore the city by yourself. Maybe spend two days doing the touristy thingies, then get lost in le marais, in the eighteenth, let chance lead you, if you have a navigo pass, you can't really get lost, there are metro stations everywhere. If you don't know anymore where you are, you just have to get into one of those look at the map and then you'll find your way. LEARN TO MASTER THE METRO MAP AND PARIS WILL BE YOURS, then if you want to get to know the people and the culture, you need to learn the language.
To master the metro map, you need to be aware of one thing : the direction.
Let's say that you are in Chatelet station and want to go to Montmartre ( let's say metro Anvers), you will take line 4 to the north, the direction is Porte de Clignancourt, change at Barbes Rochechouart take line 2 in the west direction which is Porte Dauphine and then you just have one stop. Walking in Paris is delightful, and that's the best way to discover the city. To cross it from west to east it might only take you 2 to 3 hours. The river Seine is in the middle, and the numeration of all the streets start from her ( river is feminine in French) Now you see you can't get lost.
Try new things, go in the supermarket, and ask people what would be cool to try, what wine to choose, then wander around the canal saint Martin, spend the afternoon in the parks... ask questions be curious and we'll love you. Because if we hate tourists it's only because they don't give a shit about the real Paris, they just want to see the cliché images that their grandfathers brought back from the liberation in 1944 ! It was 70 years ago, Amelie 's Paris doesn't exists. Paris is a multiethnic city, with plenty of life and plenty of adventures.
New neighborhoods are in creation in Paris, like around Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, maybe you could wander around there... there are cool bars on boats quai Mauriac. 
I teach French for foreigners, if ever you want to try a shot let me know

4 commentaires:

  1. Merci, this is very helpful. I will definitely take your advice. One thing to remember however, this might be the only time I'll ever be in Paris, and I want to see the cliche images. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Louvre, etc. It doesn't mean I don't love your city and respect its citizens. It just means I have very limited time to take advantage of all it has to offer.

    1. The good thing Joni is that you can see all the clichés sights in one day (there are buses and bateau mouche that do that), and then enjoy wandering, you will miss out of course that's the same in every cities in the world you can't see everything but at least you'll have an experience ! Enjoy your stay :-)


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