Ça va? Ça va! For me, Paris has been absolutely amazing! I've slowly gotten used to the culture here and hopefully in time, I will learn to stop making a complete fool of myself. There are so many subtle differences in daily life that I will never be completely caught on. Thankfully, I have observed long enough to notice a few of the more apparent habits that I have changed to be less like a tourist and more like a Parisian. Here's the list of things to practice to become more Parisian-like!
Part I. Food is trés important
1. Meals often come in three courses. It's not uncommon for your lunch to include an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. However, (the French are very impractical because beauty comes first) their appetizer is called the entrée and the entrée is called the plat principal. In conclusion, it goes: entrée, plat principal, and then dessert. Yum! Also, these three course meals are often pre-set and sold as a deal in restaurants. You can often find a very affordable prix fixe, in which you pay a discounted price for the three courses that are pre-chosen, or a formule, in which you have a couple of options for each course. Either way, it's an affordable French meal that never disappoints. I recommend that you always try the plat du jour, the plate of the day, because it's ever-changing and usually a very French dish. Having the plat du jour encourages you to try all the different French dishes that you wouldn't get to have at home.
2. French eat breakfast around 7-10am, lunch around 12-2pm and dinner around 7-11pm. Breakfast time can vary but lunch and dinner do not. Often, restaurants close completely between 2pm to 7pm. You cannot be more sad then when you get out of two morning classes to find that most restaurants have closed for their afternoon break. Always plan ahead and eat when the French eat, not when you get hungry. Also, keep some snacks like biscuits or fruits at home just in case you missed the time frame for food. It happens. And don't fret, there's bound to be something open. Usually, if I have missed the lunch hours, I tend to go to the more touristy areas because restaurants there stay open for the extra revenue they bring in when tourists realize that these are the only restaurants open after their morning tours/flights.
3. Sundays are rest days. Restaurants and grocery shops are closed on Sunday because it's their day off. The whole city seems to shut down on the last/first day of each week. Plan ahead on Friday/Saturday to get groceries so that you aren't hungry and alone when Sunday rolls along. Again, touristic restaurants might be open but they're always crowded. Embrace the French way and cook a fancy meal for yourself on Sundays. The other exception to this rule is a neighborhood known as the Marais which is populated with many Jewish communities. Do to their religion, they have their rest day on Saturday. Most stores in the Marais are closed on Saturdays but open on Sundays. C’est parfait! This neighborhood is awesome and has come in handy so many times when Sunday has come as a shock to me as I realize that I haven't prepared.
4. Bread is the base for the French. Everyone, the richest and the poorest can afford bread because it is the traditional go-to food for everyone. The government regulates how much money bakeries charge for bread. Translation: bread is super cheap! You can get bread at a very affordable price for every meal. Woohoo! A word of the wise, place your bread/roll on the left side of your plate on the table, not on the plate. The reasoning goes back to bread being a base food. Also, when you eat bread with your meal, rip off little pieces to put in your mouth rather than ripping a huge chunk of the bread with your teeth. You'll look more classy and less like an foreigner.
5. Pain au chocolat = chocolate croissant. These tiny suckers are my favorite food and I buy one everyday for breakfast/snack. Remember to keep this in mind when you budget for your stay in Paris and enjoy them while you can because you can only get these delicious pastries as amazing as they are, here in Paris. All pastries and sweets are delicious here, much better than anywhere else in the world. I highly recommend trying one of each. Don’t worry, you will walk off every calorie while exploring the cobblestoned pathways of the city. Exploring is the best form of exercise here.
6. Boulangerie’s are your best friend because the French government regulates which bakeries can call themselves a Boulangerie. Only bakeries who make their breads fresh everyday are allowed to have the name. Look out for this word to find the freshest and yummiest baked goods. There is often a boulangerie on every street in Paris. Noticeably, the chain bakery “Paul” does not have this word “boulangerie” stamped on it’s awning because not all of their goods are made fresh in the store.
7. Escargot, snails with pesto, is delicious. So is rabbit and horse and dogs, according to a friend of mine. I haven't gotten the courage to try all that but you should definitely go out of your comfort zone and eat all the weird French foods offered. Most of the time, you'll find that they are well known dishes for a reason other than their uncommon ingredient.
More tips of being Parisian to come…
Until then, bon appetit,
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<p>Salut! Je m'appelle Gwen. I am a sophomore at Babson College and currently about 11% fluent in French. I hope to remedy that while wining and dining in the beautiful city of Paris. I am majoring in Business with a focus in Marketing. Follow along my stories to experience the ups and downs of studying abroad à Paris!</p>