Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To smile or not to smile?

So I've been in Paris for about three days now and...

Fact: French is not a one-way street.
I thought I knew some French but turns out when it's spoken at 95 words per second, it sounds like nothing to me but a spew of 'oo's 'eur's and gargling noises. I recite my perfectly composed question and the rapid thirty-second jumble of a response leaves me baffled and paralyzed with nothing but 'umm's and most importantly 'parlez-vous anglais' in return. Hoping this changes soon!

Fact: The casual Parisian dresser is ten-times better dressed than you.
It's true. Here, the children wear blazers while playing in the park. Old Navy is a chic little espresso shop. Every man could be straight out of a magazine. Women ride bikes in four inch heels. One billboard said it best, "Life is the occasion."

Fact: A smile is not a proper accessory.
This I was prepared for, kind of, by several cultural readings we had to do for the program. As Americans, smiling comes naturally and is almost a reflex whenever we meet new people or even just make eye contact with a stranger on the street. Not in Paris. It's not that they're not friendly or that they don't smile, they do, but "only when they mean it?" So just because you're standing in line together doesn't mean you're entitled to a smile. Apparently some Frenchies may even think you're laughing at them. If any Parisians are reading this, know that I am not mocking you, I just can't help it! This smile is just permanently plastered to my face! :D

Fact: There are Arabs/Muslims everywhere.
On my first visit here, my family didn't get by speaking English or French but by speaking Arabic. It's how I thanked our undeniably Algerian shuttle driver and insisted he keep the change. I've gotten "Vous √™tes musulmane?" several times from our dorm's various custodians and chefs. Love it! I haven't been able to attend taraweeh at a mosque here yet but I'm itching to experience Ramadan the way they do. Hopefully my roommate, Hira, and I will get the hang of the Metro soon enough to venture out to the Grand Mosque of Paris. I've got ten days left to make this happen.

Fact: Everything here is too small. Including my wallet.
When we came to Paris as a family eight years ago, we got back 120 euros for every $100. When I exchanged my first $100, I got 65€ in return My heart aches for you 2002 American economy. And American standards of living space.

Fact: I love Paris...superficially.
I've seen the Eiffel tower in all its glory, the Louvre, the savory Nutella. I want to know more. I want to see past the glitter and the lights. Show me the graffiti, tell me about the homeless, what about the immigrants? Hoping to know more about the real Paris when I leave here and still love it.

Fact: My posts are way too long and I have a placement exam to study for. 


  1. That's so cool that there are a lot of Arabs and Muslims! I look forward to following your blog!


  2. Loved this post. We need pitchuurss of the little croissants in blazers!

  3. I couldn't agree more with any of these facts. Love this! I'll be living vicariously through you!

  4. don't deprive the parisians of those pretty pearly whites that were voted Best Smile in Hobart!!

  5. Fantastic. I am so excited to experience Paris through your writing, especially when you start seeing the city past all the lights and glamour!