A New Life in Paris: Coping as a Brit Abroad

Bonjour mes amis,

Let me start how I normally start – apologising for not writing for months. Although does anyone actually care? Probably not.

Anyway, the reason I didn’t post anything for ages was because nothing was really happening in my life. I spent my summer working in a pub, so, yeah.

But now, I’ve just embarked on a new, exciting (sort of) chapter in my life: last week, I moved to Paris. So, I thought why not give the ol’ blog another go, now that I actually have some spare time and a whole city at my disposal to write about.

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Since coming here, I have learned a lot of things:

1.) BRING TEA WITH YOU.

Now, I did do this – my Mum made sure I was sorted, with co-op’s finest. I then foolishly took this box of teabags to work so that people would like me, and then three days later, there was a fire in the asbestos-filled car park underneath the office, and I haven’t been allowed to enter the building since. So all weekend I’ve had to deal with French supermarket teabags, aka, the spawn of Satan. Thankfully, there are a few M&S’ dotted around the city, but God knows how much that will set me back. The lesson is, prepare in advance, and don’t bring your teabags to the office cos you never know. Keep those bad boys to yourself. Bring the crap stuff to work.

2.) Metro turnstiles are awkward, but you get the hang of it

Some of them are nice swift doors that open for you, but the ones where I live involve a turnstile AND a door waiting to smack you as soon as you have gone through said turnstile. There is literally no gap between these two obstacles, as one finishes, the next starts. There is no rest for the wicked. So, in the words of Mrs Weasley, “best do it at a bit of a run if you’re nervous”. Confidence is key.

3.) Everything takes about six years to process

You know all those important services in life, the things you rely on being quick, like the post office and the bank? Yeah, when you’re in France, forget about it. People literally do not care. Businesses close at lunchtime, on Sundays, heck, even on Mondays sometimes, because who can be arsed to work on a Monday?

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Clearly where all the bankers are on a Monday

 

I opened a bank account in Brittany, where my grandparents live. They said the card would be sent to Paris for me to collect. TWO WEEKS LATER, I was still bank card-less. I went into the bank to beg to be allowed to get some cash out (cos, BONJOUR, girls gotta eat), but they told me if I wanted to get cash out I would have to contact the bank I opened my account with (the one in Brittany), and get them to tell the Parisian bank that I’m allowed to do so. And bearing in mind that, up until this point, all communications sent from the bank had been through LETTER, I knew this wasn’t gonna be a quick job. Luckily my card arrived the following day.

Which brings me onto the postal service. It was my boyfriend’s birthday on Wednesday, and, over a week later, he is still without a gift from his girlfriend, even though I posted it LAST SATURDAY. I also posted a simple letter almost a week ago now, and that still hasn’t arrived either. So basically, if you want to send something in France: make sure you do it at least 2 weeks in advance. Maybe a month to be sure.

4.) There are lots of weirdos on the Metro, but they’re usually harmless

I’ve only been here a week and a half, and already I have had strange men approach me on three occasions. The first two were just men asking me if they could use my phone. Er, babes, I ain’t THAT dumb. The third guy was a little more creepy. He was sat opposite me, and then as I was walking through the station to catch my next train, he started talking to me, saying how wonderful I was, and asking if I could give him my number so we could go for coffee. I told him I was too young for him, and this woman turned around and asked me if I needed any help. Then after one final ‘non!’ he just left me alone.

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I know I’m “magnifique”, but leave me alone pls

 

People tend to come up to you and talk to you, but if you just ignore them it’s usually OK. Or if they really pester you just give them 2 euros and they’ll usually shut up. Obviously, if anything bad were to happen, you’re in an extremely public place so it’s unlikely you would end up in serious trouble. There are usually lots of people on the Metro even at 10, 11pm.

5.) There are no holidays at Christmas time

The only non-working days are Christmas Day and New Years Day. So, gutted if they fall on weekends, then you aren’t gonna get any time off. Nope, not even Boxing Day. Us Brits like to take the whole interim period between Christmas and New Year to contemplate what we’ve done, both with our lives, and what we’ve put in our stomachs, but in France there is no such thing. It’s straight back to work, mes amis. Well, unless you’re a banker or a postman, clearly.

Although the 11th November is a bank holiday, so there’s that.

6.) Fruit is quite expensive

I’m just sayin’.

7.) More Metro etiquette (and lack thereof)…

When the train is really busy, and you’re sat on one of those folding seats, you’re not allowed to sit anymore. You have to stand while there are lots of people there. Which seems nice enough.

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However, the whole “wait til everyone is off the train before you get on” thing that we love in London is not a thing here. People just charge straight in like it’s nobody’s business.

8.) Deaf people asking for money aren’t really deaf

OK, wait, that seemed harsh, but hear me out. The other day this woman came up to me claiming to be deaf, and pointed to this sheet of paper with a list of signatures and money donated. It looked like she was representing this blind-deaf charity. I felt kind of awkward so I signed my name and said I would give 5 euros. She stood there, expecting the cash, so I pulled my purse out and realised, of course, I didn’t have  5 euros. She made it seem like she would give me change, so I gave her a 20 but she only gave me 5 in return! She kept blowing me kisses then she scampered off. So effectively I had just given 15 euros, when I only wanted to give 5. That seems tight, I know, but c’mon, I’m an intern, I don’t have a lot of money!

I asked my cousin Billie about this, and she said that in France, legit charities aren’t allowed to accept cash off the street, and that was just a beggar scamming me for money. I mean, I realised that as soon as I had given her the cash, but I felt too bad to ask for it back, and I knew she would just pretend to be deaf anyway. In the end, I didn’t feel too annoyed cos I guess I probably helped put food in that woman’s mouth. And she might have had kids, too.

9.) There are rats in the restaurants

So there I was, eating an admittedly very cheap and microwave heated meal in an Asian restaurant with Billie, when a rat just scampers across the floor of the restaurant. I was in shock, but Billie said it was normal. She said her friend worked in a restaurant all summer in a different part of France, and rats just came and went, it was the case in all the French restaurants. I mean DAYUM, in England if a rat came into a restaurant that place would be closed before you could even say “Ratatouille”. Wait, maybe that’s why that film is set in Paris…

10.) Apart from all that, it is beautiful

But I’m sure you’ll know that already. And if not, you soon will, when I hopefully continue to blog more about my life here, and all the stuff this city has to offer.

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Alright, au revoir mes amis,

Tegan xo

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2 thoughts on “A New Life in Paris: Coping as a Brit Abroad

  1. France definitely has its peculiarities, all to familiar to them having lived there myself (and currently residing in Lyon). That said, I’ve never encountered delays quite like yours when it comes to banks/ the post office – though last time I lived in France the bank helpfully sent my PIN number to my UK address…! The extra bank holidays over here are a definite plus, but as I work at a university unfortunately they bring no benefit to me – since any classes due to take place on a bank holiday simply have to be rescheduled!

    1. Hey! Yeah, the delays were baaaad. Haha, that’s so typical them sending it to the UK! Agh, working in an office means no time off 😦 to be fair when you’re properly employed (not just a lowly intern) you get 2 days off a month that you get to choose! which is really cool. Or maybe that’s just my company, haha!

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