I’ve been in Paris for a little over three months.
And now, as I contemplate the amount of time I have left, I can’t help but observe who I am now. I try to note the differences:
- A significant horror at anyone who bites straight into bread. I am actually physically uncomfortable at the sight.
- Go to phrases, all mainly french: “ça marche“, “ouais“, “c’est d’accord“, and of course the most common: “pardon!”
- I speak EVEN QUIETER—so that’s bad news for everyone who thought I spoke quiet already.
- Master of straight, unamused face.
- A strange recognition of what is good wine and what is not.
- Automatically knowing that in order to switch to the 7 to Sorbonne from the 9 it is better to simply take the 10 and ride one extra stop on the 7 (and other such situations.)
- Being annoyed when someone doesn’t say hello or goodbye when I enter or leave a place, don’t they know that it’s rude to not do so?
- Getting angry at a waiter who asked me to pay immediately, did it look like I’m leaving soon? Vraiment impoli. A-t-il un problème????
- Casually wandering into world famous art collections nearly daily and making references with friends: “ah ouais, il ressemble l’oeuvre de Picabia…“
- Having restaurant standards: “mais non, le menu est en anglais…en fait c’est mieux dans le 10ième.“
The most disconcerting of these changes is struggling to maintain two languages at once. My grammar becomes deconstructed and tangled, phrases like “and so” or “in fact” trickling into my english library of terms. Sometimes it’s hard to even spit out a sentence that makes any sense at all.
But I adore it. It’s an absolute pleasure to play with two languages and cultures; I know I will sorely miss it and spend a lot of time and effort attempting to return here. I know it.
I want to introduce you to my other list (I love lists.) These are aspects of Parisian culture that I would prefer to take with me—my invisible souvenirs:
- Long, long, LONG dining. Multiple courses…rambling discussion…good friends. They do it right.
- The baiser. I find it a charming way to greet and send off friends.
- The attitude towards plastic bags: pay extra for one or get a reusable one: admirable!
- Meticulous attention and attendance of the arts: Parisians are forever at the theatre, the cinema, museums, really anything of that nature.
- Emphasis on natural beauty. It is strange to see a fully-makeuped face here, it’s allllll about that skincare.
- Never leaving the house in casual dress. Jeans are as casual as it gets.
- Wardrobe staples. They don’t own that many clothes.
- Attention to quality over quantity. (Which is a good method for avoiding obesity and greedy overconsumption.)
- Men’s attention to their appearance. They are coiffed and have their own idea of style—bonus: they’re not afraid of masculinity-threatening scarves.
- Waiting for a friend? Get a café. Have twenty minutes? Get a double. Stuck in the rain and don’t want to walk? Get a café au lait.
Cleveland. Friends. Family. I sorely miss you and I am looking forward to coming back to you. But there’s a bit of Parisian stuck in me now and I’ve no idea how that’s going to manifest itself.
ça marche: that works, that’s ok
ouais: yeah, informal “oui”
c’est d’accord: it’s ok, it’s fine
pardon: sorry, excuse me, one uses it whenever one bumps into someone, etc (so a lot)
vraiment impoli: really impolite…really rude
A-t-il un problème?: what’s his problem? does he have a problem?
ah ouais, il ressemble l’oeuvre de Picabia: ah yes, it resembles Picabia’s work
mais non, le menu est en anglais: ugh the menu is in english though
en fait, c’est mieux dans le 10ième: actually, it’s better in the 10th arrondissment
un baiser: a kiss, NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE VERB WHICH IS VULGAR
admirable: admirable (not hard, this one)
un café: usually a small espresso, the translation means coffee literally
un double: double espresso
un café au lait: espresso with steamed milk—classic choice, markedly more expensive