Initial Thoughts on Paris

Do not read this if you are easily offended.

I am being honest, but not trying to be mean.

No country and its citizens are perfect, and these are just MY observations, so you are TOTALLY allowed to disagree, but keep it civil please.

1. General shopping

A lot of shops are closed, part due to the recession and another part due to the fact that it’s July heading into August, and a lot of Parisiens are also on vacation, and therefore not working.

As for the attitudes of Parisiens being rude, I haven’t encountered that yet.

Cashiers are very friendly on the whole, albeit more reactive than proactive.

Sure, it took us 10 minutes to check out of a store because they couldn’t find a price on the tag and they couldn’t (didn’t want to?) cancel the transaction on the till and allow other waiting customers to be checked out…… but I am totally used to all of that. I’ve been living with that attitude for about 2 years in Montreal.

No biggie.

But they are a LOT friendlier and more polite here than previously imagined, and especially in comparison to Montreal (not as a dig on Montrealers, but I do notice the difference in attitude and general demeanor).

They may not LOVE their jobs, but they do them well and with civility.

Here it is a formal: Hello, Thank You and Goodbye, along with other questions like: Would you like a bag to carry that? How about I give you this last extra piece of bacon for free bcause we cannot sell it just like that? Would you like anything else? Is this how you want that item cut? Or how about diced, it might be easier to eat?

Let’s just say I have never experienced the gift of free bacon in Montreal, and the formal Hello, Thank you, and Goodbyes are a hit and miss depending on where you go.

2. General business sense doesn’t seem to exist

I mean that in the nicest way possible even if it doesn’t seem like it.

In North America, money is to be made at every turn: if you check out late in a hotel, you may incur extra penalties and charges.

If you show up late to a buffet breakfast, you may not get any food.

Basically, places won’t let you skate by if you don’t follow their rules.

Not so, here… at least in my experience.

We left 4 hours late from our hotel room, and didn’t get a single blink of the eye.

We also showed up 2 hours late for the food, and it turns out that everyone else was late too, so we ended up being early.

We didn’t incur any extra charges on anything, and when we are in shops, we get what we paid for, and sometimes a bit more (see bacon example above).

Here, it is more laissez-faire and less by the book, which also accounts for the fact that cashiers are not proactive, although very nice.

3. French are more akin to Americans than they’d like to imagine

For one thing, they love their country. Like LOVE their country.

Every Parisien(ne) I encountered said: Tell me this isn’t the most beautiful city in the world!!

Me: Er.. well I can’t say that yet, I’ve only just gotten off the plane an hour ago. 🙂

It is a neverending lovefest with how gorgeous their City of Light is (to which I’d like to point out that the stereotypes about French NOT picking up their dog’s poop and letting it linger on the sidewalks is very true and well founded).

It may be beautiful but it isn’t clean, although I hear London is worse.

For another thing, they only speak French for the most part.

Not a dig on the French, but I found it a bit funny that French tease Americans for not speaking another language, when in fact, THEY don’t speak another language either!

They do try, a lot of them, to speak to me in English, but it is mostly only those Parisiens who are not really French-born-and-bred Parisiens, and who already speak another language other than French.

For those tried and true French Parisiens, it is only French and no other language that matters… which is a very true-bred American or Canadian-esque attitude to me.

Still, it’s a good thing I speak French or else I’d be isolated language-wise.

They will give it a good & kind try but it is a limited effort because the vocabulary is missing for them.

The French eat a lot like Americans

They may not want to admit it, but I sure saw a hell of a lot of frozen food and premade dinners here. Of course, the raw quality may be higher, and they may cook more with raw ingredients than Americans do on the whole, but they DO eat a lot of frozen foods, chips, and drink pop.

I also see places like McDonald’s packed with people, and other French bistros and restaurants with 20% capacity.

(It might be a money thing.)

They also love their baguettes and petit batards here. Everyone we saw seemed to have one tucked under their arm on the way home.

4. BF would like to point out that it isn’t as great as before

He is talking from a foodie perspective. He says the selection and quality of the yoghurt has diminished, and the prices of food are kind of crazy.

4 EUR for a small bag of potatoes? Are you kidding me?

He said it was much better before the recession, and that you can see that people simply don’t have the money to purchase food in the same quality and range as before.

That being said, the food here is still AWESOME.

The most banal of items — eggs and milk — are fabulous here. They are above and beyond the quality of the best items I can buy in Canada, and I am going to miss the food. A lot.

I can’t wait to get my paws on a basket of strawberries.

5. And the fashion?

The fashion here is nothing to be worried about.

Pshaw! to everyone who worries about what to wear in Paris.

Sure, they do tend to wear heels, but many are simply in ballet flats. They are nothing as pictured on The Sartorialist, and are very NORMAL fashion-wise.

They do NOT do bright colours (like seriously, teal, purple and pink makes me stand out like a sore thumb), they stick to neutrals (beige, whites, tans, blacks), and they LOVE THEIR STRIPES.

Everyone wears stripes here (thin stripes), it is like the Parisien uniform on men and women.

The men here are well dressed. Moreso than anywhere I’ve been to in North America. Most guys are in a suit, with or without a tie, and they are not slobbish for the most part, unless they are general labourers.

Not to sound racist (okay I will, no matter what I say), but none of the construction, cleaning or labourer jobs seem to be done by the French or even “the whites”. It’s only the immigrants or minorities, it seems. :\

I will need more time to take a look around and see if my initial thoughts are true.

If you are worried about dressing in Paris, don’t be.

So long as you don’t normally dress like a skanky ho in Day-Glo Jersey Shore clothing, you should be fine here.

Easy on the makeup too; many French women DO NOT dye their hair (how refreshing to see greys), and they DO NOT wear a lot of makeup (concealer, mascara, eyeliner, lipstick and a touch of blush, if any makeup or at all).

Less is more.

I also saw a couple of fashion faux pas’ such as a grown woman wearing a white, skintight pair of leggings that said: HELLO KITTY with the poor cat’s face on her butt….  but that is to be expected in a city of this size.

One last note: Chain Smoking & Biking? Yes.

But I am used to it. It is the same as in Montreal — everyone and their dog smokes and bikes here.

I didn’t even notice it as being significant, until I realized that I wasn’t surprised by it.

We also noticed a lot of motorcycles, and we think it’s because..

A) you can park anywhere you want without paying, unlike a car

B) it is cheaper than a car

C) it is faster than a bicycle and probably a lot sexier

D) Everything here is VERY tiny, so bikes are the best option.

No Hummers, massive SUVs or huge trucks here, I can tell you that. Everything is the size of a Smart-car, and so are the roads.

I saw ONE SUV and I was surprised at how large it was compared to the other little cars beeping on the road.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.