Crappy Souvenirs: Miniature Eiffel Towers
We’ve all been there, you’re standing under the Eiffel Tower and five men congregate around you, shaking palm-sized miniature Eiffel Tower replicas on key rings. “One euro!” they call, “Lady Gaga! One Euro!” We’ve all entertained the notion. “One euro? I could buy a souvenir for all of my friends
and have money left over for me!” No. No one wants a plastic bedazzled Eiffel Tower, no matter how much they love you. There are no memories attached and it’s hardly a unique present, they’ll probably put it right next to the miniature Empire States Building their mother’s college roommate’s sister bought them when they were nine.
What to buy instead:
Go to le Marais, buy something unique/ beautiful /creepy /meaningful. Do not feel obligated to purchase something with an Eiffel Tower on it just so that they KNOW it’s from France. Think about it this way, the more unique it is, the more often people will ask them “OH EM GEE where did you get that?” and then they’ll say “my wonderful friend got it for me in Paris, France.” Bam, coolness achieved. You’re welcome.
Stereotypical Paris Stuff: Berets, Striped T-Shirts, baguettes
If I had a nickel for every time I saw a French person wearing a beret…I would only have one nickel. And it would be useless here anyways because France is part of the EU and uses the euro. The point is, the stereotypical Frenchman who wears a beret and blue-and-white striped shirt, carries a baguette under his arm, and twirls his miraculous mustache frequently does not exist. In the same way that I don’t wear my Juicy Couture track suit around, clutch my BigMacs in my fat fingers, tan like an oompa loompa, or carry a framed portrait of Abraham Lincoln with me constantly, we are not our stereotypes. If you wear a beret, instead of blending in, you will be stamped as a stupid American. Counterintuitive, isn’t it?
What to buy instead:
Things the French think Americans want. French stereotypes of American culture are almost always awesome. And slightly offensive. Or very offensive. (Example A: 9-11 themed 50’s diner, it’s always going to be too soon, France.) Still, French people kinda like to do authentic “American” things. For example, one of my favorite things is a chain of restaurants here called Café Indiana. Not only are they under the impression that Indiana is full of Indians, (I can assure you, our Native American Indian population is quite small) they also serve Tex-Mex. Their walls are decorated with pop-art headdress-clad Native Americans. Why, you ask? Because that’s America, dammit, and French people eat that up.
Namebrand Clothes: No, Chanel is Not More “Authentic” in Paris
There’s nothing sadder than going all the way to France to buy things you could have gotten at home. Plus, it’s much more expensive here, I assure you. I promise you, no one is going to look at your Gucci dress and assume you got it in Paris because, well, why would they? Likewise, the French have an unhealthy obsession with Abercrombie & Fitch. Don’t ask me why, there is a store on the Champs Elysees complete with velvet ropes and a line to enter the store. [This Sunday the second floor burned down. Luckily no one was hurt, but if that isn’t an act of God I don’t know what is.) Resist the urge, my American friends, buy something that makes your 14 hour plane ride worth it.
What to buy instead:
American Things! Hear me out – the French are also really into things in English or garments covered in American flags. Would you buy a sweater covered in cartoon hamburgers? Well, guess what, the French would. I most recommend purchasing clothing that uses incorrect English or makes absolutely no sense because, well, you can’t get that in America can you? Or – and this is by far my best advice – get on a random metro, get off at a stop you’ve never heard of, walk through winding streets until you find a miniscule shop with vintage furs and pink stilettos, sift through costume jewelry while the storeowner talks to you in French about whether or not calzones are the same as pizzas, and buy something that just happens to catch your eyes. Because clothes are great, but clothes with memory and adventure attached are even better.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Clancy Tripp is a junior at Claremont McKenna double-majoring in Literature and Film Studies with a minor in Gender Studies. In the past few years she has lived in Indiana, California, Washington D.C., and Chicago studying and working in arts and literacy education. Good luck keeping her in the same place for more than a year. True to form, she will be spending the Fall semester in Paris, France where she will spend as much time as possible with local French children, explore every arrondissement, and sample every pain au chocolat available!</span></p>