It’s hard to believe that I am already approaching my first week in Paris. In such a short amount of time, I feel like I have experienced years of learning. I have already visited many of the popular tourist attractions: Eiffel Tower, Champs d’Elysses, Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame Cathedral. I also started school in L’Opera. I could write for days about all the exciting things I have seen and learned. It is the City of Lights, international business, fashion, and romance after all.
I have decided to focus my first few days on answering some common questions that foreigners may wonder about the French. It has been interesting to observe these questions as a French “newbie”!
How do French people stay so thin ?
The French walk (or take a bicycle) everywhere! While they may not prioritize fitness as in going to the gym like people do in the United States, they live very active lifestyles by cycling to work, walking to social events, and strolling through parks with their dogs. Also, they use smaller cups, smaller plates, and have smaller packages of food than in the United States. The smaller size encourages people to drink and eat smaller portions, and psychologically feel full when they have finished their plate. It also takes effort to refill cups and plates, meaning that people are less likely to ask for refills and overeat than in other countries.
Why do French people look stylish?
One word: shoes! Comfort takes the back burner and style is definitely an apparent priority. Women wear heels even when walking through metro stations and cobble stones. Men wear dress shoes on the streets, even when attending sporting events. It is amazing how a pair of shoes can make a person go from looking out-of-style to straight out of Vogue. Another secret is that their clothing is not necessarily fancy, but it generally looks put together. I learned from my host family that the golden rule is to never wear more than 3 colors (especially helpful for those who are matching-challenged). This also explains why many French people wear black – and we all know that black is magical in making us look thinner!
Is smoking still common in France?
Less so than the last century, but yes! I have been surprised to see smokers in the streets, particularly youth. Smoking is not allowed in most public places (such as the metro and in schools), but there are many more tobacco stores than in other countries, and you will find people smoking while socializing with friends.
What makes Paris romantic?
I could write an entire book about this. A brief explanation is that there is beautiful scenery and there are beautiful people everywhere you go. People are not afraid to show affection – holding hands, hugging, and even giving kisses on the cheek when you first meet them. Now I know why the French have a kiss named after them – people kiss all times of the day everywhere you go. It is refreshing to see love!
How present are the recent terrorist attacks in the Parisians’ daily lives?
As my host family sister said, “we have to continue to live.” While almost everyone was either directly affected or knew someone who was affected by the November and last January terrorist events, the Parisians are continuing to live each day as normal. There are memorials and public events to respect those who were lost, but there is not an overwhelming sentiment of fear and sadness that one might expect. The commitments to not lose hope, to stay strong, and to be fearless have been reassuring as I begin this new adventure.
I have really enjoyed learning about the French people as an outsider who is trying to assimilate by learning the language and culture. Who knows all that will be possible for me to learn over the next few months? If you have other questions or curiosities about living in France, feel free to comment below or reach out to me. À bientôt!