Thursday, October 16, 2014

10 Culture Shocks in Paris

Now that I have rounded out my first full month since hopping the ocean to start a new life in Europe, I thought it would be a good time to share the 10 culture shocks that I am still getting used to here in my new home of Paris.

1. The bread. Bread is king. Served with almost every meal, you will be hard-pressed to find a street in Paris not brimming with gluten-packed doughy goodness. Piles of bread, bread on every corner. Everyone eats bread too; even the posh Parisian skinny minis can be found munching on a baguette from their daily boulangerie commute. It is a bizarre clash of culture coming from America where bread has become the Darth Vader of the food galaxy. (I hadn't eaten bread for six month prior to coming to France.)

2. Lukewarm milk and eggs. That's right. You go to the supermarket and you see this. Freaked me out the first time like none other. I still haven't died, so I guess it's okay. Just wait until you start eating the raw beef and steak....

3. The smell. Okay, it doesn't smell like a toilet. But from time to time, especially near the Metro and the Seine, you get that whimsical, unmistakeable whiff of human sewage. Yay biology!

4. Pigeons. The extent of the wildlife here in Paris ends there. I know, I know, it's a big city and everything. But this Ohio girl is still all like, where are my chipmunks at? and stray cats? and SQUIRRELS?! Nothing but pools of pigeons. Oh, and one rabbit. That drew crowds.

5. Bookstore selections. Not only is it all in French, but when I went to see if I could find a Bible....
This middle section of the wall is the entire religion section in the two-story bookstore. The four religions available: Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Catholicism. Amazon, here I come!

6. Mondays are Sundays. Now I'd heard all about the commercial shutdown that ensues come Sunday morning in France. What I wasn't ready for is that this also extends into Monday for many stores and public buildings, and sometimes even Tuesdays for public museums. And let's say you finally get that schedule down, then there's the 11 am open times, two-hour lunch breaks, and 4:30 pm closures. I thought those crazy store hour stories were just rumors. Take this store, which changes hours as it feels like it.

7. Picnicking. Speaking of lunch hour, around that time expect to see everyone from sleek men in business suits to ladies in their Manolo heels and Gucci bags to supercool au pairs with daylight to burn (moi??) head outdoors and spend a leisurely lunch on the lawn or stretched out on a park bench. No one gulping down coffee locked onto their iPad on the metro, no one cramming down a low-fat, low-cal wrap on their way to the next meeting with clients. Literally, everyone eats outside. It's borderline crowd status. It's WONDERFUL.

8. Driving. This deserves its own post. But just for example, lanes aren't really a thing here. It's more, Hmm, where can I cram my car on the road the fastest....

9. Americana. While I may not be back in the motherland, I can't pass a day without coming across traces of her influences here in France. Music, food, fashion, words, brands, slogans, styles, stars, icons, ideas.... there are times where I forget that I am in a foreign country. . On the other hand...

10. Being a foreigner. Realizing that the fundamentals of how you see the world are not the way things are, but the way you see them. There is a solemn sadness of being estranged from those who share your heritage, and a strange independence knowing you are alone in your thoughts.

But let's face it...finding the "weird" in other cultures is all part of why we travel in the first place.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pile on another sweater and fry up a room-temperature egg for my lunch picnic.


  1. Hahaha this is such a great post! :)

  2. I agree, Sally!
    Nice segue from room-temp eggs and milk to the toilet photo! Ha!