Bonjour for the last of this segment: street style!
Part III. The laid-back French look requires a lot more effort from the non-French
12. Dress classily and wear some perfume/cologne. Aim for a business casual on a daily basis. Parisians are known to be fashionable but it doesn't mean that you need to redo your whole wardrobe and stock up in Chanel coats and Balenciaga outfits. Avoid flashy neon colors and don't show too much skin. I find that most outfits here resemble what you would see on a Zara or H&M mannequin. It's a low key chic that shouldn't decimate your bank account if you often wear really casual attires. Forget wearing your pajamas to school. Sweatpants are okay if they are a bit tighter and don't have a school/word running down your leg. Leave your gym outfits (unless you are planning on going to the gym) and ratty sweatshirts at home. If you're a bold person, wear whatever you want. Just beware of the impending judgemental stares from the Parisians.
13. When you ask for a water bottle, you will receive the ginormous one that you would find at the bottom shelves of the grocery stores. They are the ones you assume were made for marathon runners and hardcore trainers only. To get a normal sized bottle, you might have to ask for a smaller bottle of water. The tiny 8 oz bottles do not exist here.
14. Save money at restaurants by ordering a "carafe d'eau" which is tap water. Tap water here tastes like spring water and is completely safe to drink. Be sure to order tap though, otherwise you will be charged exorbitant prices for something as simple as water.
15. Everyone goes into a zombie state in the metro. Don't look at anyone and don't talk to anyone. People go into a mental sleep. Everyone knows when a tourist is on board because everyone can hear them talking. This isn't to say that no one talks, but assume that most passengers are on their morning commute to work hungover. That's how Parisians act on the metro so don't be surprised if you get glared at for making conversation. It isn't often done in the metro.
On the bus, people are usually just as quiet.
16. The French aren't snobbish and rude... well, sometimes. But who isn't? If you blast them with a bunch of fast English asking them for help or telling them how lost you are, they will be frustrated because they can't understand your mumbo jumbo. You would be shocked and slightly upset as well had they quickly spoken and questioned you in French if you didn’t know the language. Attempt to start with a few lines in French: "Pardon, Bonjour Madame/Monsieur, je ne parle pas bien francais. Est-ce tu parlez un peu anglais?" “Excuse me, hello Miss, Sir. I do not speak French well. Do you speak a bit of English?” I have never had an issue getting directions or help from strangers thus far after saying those lines in French. It only takes a few quick measures to gain their friendliness. Also, fun fact, most French like Americans. Many French friends have told me that they like our popular language. They called my American accent cute. The French don't hate Americans. If you are open minded to their culture, they will be to yours.
17. Parisians are fascinating to watch and people-watching is quite popular. Many cafes have outdoor seating in which all the tables and chairs face outwards onto the street so that diners can people-watch. It’s a great way to observe without being rude. I have learned most of these tips simply by staring at really good looking people in these cafes and, more subtly, in the metro.
This is all I can think of for now. I am sure that I still look like a tourist for the little habits that I haven't noticed are different from most Parisians but no one has told me yet. Another thing about the French, they won't tell you if you're screwing up. They will give you a funny look, but they would never embarrass you by pointing it out. They are polite/mean like that. However, figuring it out for yourself by observing and living here is the best way to learn not only how to look "normal" but to learn an entirely new culture affected by a completely different history of peoples and land.
À tout à l'heure,
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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>