The City of Lights. The City of Love. Berets, baguettes, casual smoking, effortlessly chic – all things that usually come to mind when someone thinks about Paris. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but I actually don’t even like Paris that much*gasp.*
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice city and sure I’ll probably have a decent time, but it’s not somewhere I find myself dreaming about or craving to visit over and over again. However, if you’re looking to visit Paris, you probably want to know all the nitty gritty real things that happen in the city – not just the fantasy perfect trip filled with unicorns and rainbows that everyone seems to portray.
(Though if I had $20 grand to drop on a single trip then you can bet your butt I’d also be sipping champagne from a private event held at the top of the Eiffel Tower wearing an outfit that cost more than my car… If I had a car. I digress.)
If you’re planning to visit Paris, then you may want to read about the 16 things no one tells you about it. Written in collaboration with my great friend Stacey who has lived in France multiple times like the queen she is.
People do really smoke, like, a lot. This is pretty much all of Europe, but I find it even more prolific in Paris – and I also find that the cigarette butts litter the ground like someone had a cigarette party convention (one that I don’t wish to be invited to.)
Honestly, it’s pretty dirty and more so than most other cities I’ve visited. Look, Paris isn’t a dump – there are some really gorgeous parts of the city. However, I find that overall, Paris has a grittiness to it that I don’t find much in other cities. Maybe I’m a cleanliness snob? Who knows. Though based on the state of my house, I’m going to tell you right now that’s probably false.
Yes, it’s expensive, but yes, you can travel there without a huge budget. Not everything in Paris is absurdly expensive like you might imagine to be. I mean, sure, if you’ve got hundreds to spend a day then be my guest (and bring me with you), but enjoying a budget stay in Paris is easier than I expected. Please, come join me for cheap wine and cheese in a park – bringing me to my next point.
Cheese and wine really do mean as much to the French as you think. It’s an ingrained part of the culture. There are fromageries and boulangeries everywhere – both specialty cheese and bakery stories respectively. Plus, the French have some excellent wine. You’d be remiss if you didn’t experience this delectable combination while visiting Paris. What we’d consider ‘fancy’ bread only costs a euro or two.
They’re not all snobs, promise. I don’t entirely know where the stereotype that all Parisians are snobs came from. I think this just boils down to cultural differences. If I tried to be polite and courteous and make an effort to speak their language, I didn’t find anyone particularly rude. Certainly no more than some of the jerks I meet on the DC Metro every day of my life.
Public transportation is fairly easy and makes getting around easy, however, the impossibly sized metro ticket will impede that. Sure, I think the Paris metro is gross, but I also think the DC metro is revolting – I’m still going to take. But at least the DC metro has actual cards that are easy to locate in your bottomless purse, whereas the Paris metro gives out tickets so small I know I’m immediately never going to see it again if it goes into my bag.
It’s the fourth largest metro in the world. In other words, it’s really big. Get a map; you’ll be fine, promise.
Many ads in public transport feature haute couture. Meanwhile, in the DC metro we’ve got ads about the metro promising us they’re not all jerks. I really wish I were lying.
Many things close on a Monday. In many other parts of Europe, you’ll find most things closed on a Sunday, however, in Paris, Monday (along with Sunday) is one of the official days for rest. The Louvre is an anomaly for this as it’s closed on a Tuesday.
It’s true, they tend to be slimmer than Americans, and no, it’s not necessarily down to the food. I’m not an expert or a scientist or nutritionist or any of those things, I can just tell you about my experiences. I think the food isn’t really what correlates to a healthier weight in the population, but rather I think it boils down to the fact that people walk many places and generally get more exercise during the day than on average most Americans.
There’s more to Paris than the standard tourist activities – don’t forget to experience it. Go up the Eiffel Tower if you must and get your Instagram photo of the Champs-Elysees, but don’t forget there’s so much more to Paris than these places that attract tourists in droves. Read up on some of the most offbeat areas of Paris.
There are green chairs literally everywhere in the parks. You’ve probably seen them – the green chairs that feature in many a photo of Paris. What you may not expect is that they are quite literally everywhere you turn. Maybe Paris is being overrun by green chairs and we won’t know until it’s too late… Secured the plot for my first novel I believe.
There are so many green spaces in the city, so be sure to explore some of the lesser known ones. Paris has so many parks and little havens of nature amidst the chaos of city life – 450 to be exact. Who knew so many??
You must greet shopkeepers and say goodbye or else it’s considered extremely rude. No one wants to be that rude person so learn to say bonjour, merci and au revoir and you’re all set.
You need to be really careful with pronunciation, as it’s very easy to say something you don’t mean. To be honest, this isn’t specific to Paris, but rather all of France. For example, you may want to say, ‘thank you very much!’ because the kind Frenchman/woman helped you. You may be trying to say, merci beaucoup, but a slight mispronunciation of merci beau cul actually means thanks, nice ass. Let’s just say you don’t want to end up in a situation like that.
It will be chaos in the summer and you will need to work extra hard to find quiet spots without wanting to punch stupid tourists. As with most cities, the summer is going to be a very busy time to visit a city, but somehow it almost always seems worse in Paris. If that’s when you are going, that’s fine! You can make it work, just know you’re in for an adventure (of dodging people that is).
Paris is still a beautiful and charming city in its own way and knowing these 16 things will only better prepare you for when you do eventually visit. What do you wish people told you before you went to Paris?