It was a grim January night when my boyfriend suggested the prospect of moving to Paris. I am a life-long Londoner, so the idea of upping sticks to another capital city was certainly not a daunting one… They’re our neighbours, right? How different can Paris be?
My brain immediately started flicking through a mental rolodex of romantic imagery (I’ll need a wicker basket for buying profiteroles! I’ll be a wine-soaked Amelie!), so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that there was a reality check waiting for me on the other side of the tunnel. Whilst I am getting on just fine with the profiter-ole side of things, I can’t help but feel like there may be a secret Parisian code that any new pretender must crack before they are truly ingratiated into this city. To give any other Gallic noobs out there a head-start, I will share what I have cracked so far:
1: Parisians Do Not Like Rules – Great, thought the rebel in me… Until I found this also includes some really useful rules, such as picking up your dog’s mess. Some streets in Paris are literally splattered with the stuff, and whilst you can’t deny it is a unique way of “sticking it to the man”, it’s just not always so great for wearing open-toe sandals.
2: Rain – Did you know Paris actually has a higher average yearly rainfall than London? No, funnily I wasn’t copied on that one either. Neither was the suitcase I crammed full of ditzy floral dresses and coquettish spaghetti straps.
3: The Word ‘Bof’ – I am not even sure what the English equivalent of this noise is, because ‘bof’ can be heard in literally any and every context. Written off your car? “Bof”. It’s Tuesday? “Bof”. And once you start saying it too, it’s almost impossible to stop.
4: DO NOT TOUCH THE VEGETABLES – You thought you’d make like Rachel Khoo and try and befriend the local ‘market folk’. You did not think that a quick squeeze of an avocado would see you cast out of that market like the dirty vegetable fondler that you are. Leave the serving to the stall-holder – unless you want a glare that could wilt a cabbage at 20 paces.
5: The Language – This is an obvious one, yet can’t be ignored. Who, for example, knew that the French word for ‘pint’ sounds so close to a slang word for male genitalia? (Clue: not me.) I won’t elaborate too much here, other than to ask you to please be careful when ordering a beer at the bar. I will not have your reputation on my conscience.
6: Parisians Are Really Quite Friendly – The thing that I hear most from Brits when discussing Paris is how snooty Parisians apparently are. Well I am happy to report that I have not seen a jot of it. More often than not, I am greeted with a wide-eyed grin and an “‘Allo!” before I can even begin to practice my terrible French on them.
7: Parisians Focus on The Important Things – I think if us Brits have anything to learn from our French neighbours, it’s this. Parisians work less hours than us. There’s a fancy cake shop on every street corner. They can sit in a cafe for five hours just… sitting. Things always still get done – Paris is a major world city, after all – but there are certain things that come first. It’s only taken a few small weeks to understand that “joie de vivre” is very much more than just a phrase.
I am sure there are many more slip-ups to be had whilst I continue on this journey (perhaps literally if the dogs have anything to do with it) but for now, there’s nothing much else to say, other than perhaps: ’Bof’.