For those who’ve been on a night out in Paris, you will know that it’s easier to pull than the seventeen year old wearing neon Primark bodycon with her cousin’s fake ID, slumped in the corner of concert square, drunk, at 11pm.
French men are notorious for being extremely charming and extremely forward, they’ll literally come over to you in the road and ask you out. Okay, it can be a little creepy but you can imagine my excitement when I moved to Paris for ten months. Unsurprisingly, two months into my trip and the image of me on the back of some Parisian’s Vespa whizzing around the Arc De Triomphe slowly faded away as reality finally filtered through my rose tinted glasses.
The main culprit for my severe bad luck is down to culture clash (and probably the five pounds gained by consuming copious amounts of macaroons and cheese), which resulted in some hideous experiences. I’ve short listed three golden rules for when trying to fit into Paris:
1. Some words often have two meanings (and typically French, the second is always dirty)
On my first day in Paris, my wifi button broke on my iPhone so I rushed to the Louvre Apple Store as though I had lost a limb and was on my way to A&E. The guy at the genius bar had absolutely no sense of humour so I knew that I had to bite the bullet and attempt to make an appointment in my best French possiblé.
“Puis-je faire un rendez-vous, avec toi? Ici ? Et Maintenant ? » I said whilst jabbing my finger down on the Genius Bar.
(For you non-Francophone speakers, what I meant to say was, “Please may I make an appointment with you here and now?”)
Since I was using the “tu” form, it pretty much translated to the poor, bewildered Genius Bar geek as “alright, fancy a shag? Here, right now on the genius bar?”
Moral of the story: Start every conversation with “Do you speak English?”
2. More isn’t always more
It’s genuinely difficult to envision Paris as the home of Coco Chanel, Marie Antoinette and Christian Louboutin, when you go out and see the French women in literally nothing more glamorous than a pair of black Nikes on a night out. They don’t know their curly blows from their Bichon Frisés or their Chanel from the tunnel that gets you to London – they have absolutely no clue.
Shortly after my Apple store faux-pas, I was invited for drinks in the centre of Paris by some new friends. Saturday night drinks in Paris clearly translates to heels and eye lashes in my mental phrase book so when I miraculously ended up being early I decided to stand outside the Metro entrance and wait. I don’t mind friends running a few minutes late but on this occasion a dubious looking French man approached me and attempted to subtly try and “pay for my services” before discreetly flashing 50 euros. I don’t know what I found more offensive, the fact I must have looked like a prostitute or the fact he thought I was only worth 50 euros!!
Moral of the story: when in Rome. Heels and a smoky eye are more femme de la nuit than femme fatale in Paris.
3. The French drink all day but never get drunk
Have you noticed the French drink wine and beer at any time of the day but when it hits midnight they still remain composed whilst the Brits are already dancing on the tables necking a bottle of tequila? No wonder the French don’t have a translation for “a show”, they’re always so poised. Unfortunately I had to learn this final lesson the hard way at a house party with French students. There is a reason for why the French have the word “soirée”. At a soirée people don’t grind, at a soirée people don’t fall into the toilets with their friends and at a soirée people simply don’t spill tequila on custom made furniture before having to leave at 4am in order to avoid the angry host.
Moral of the story: There is a reason why the British party on Greek islands, Paris doesn’t quite cut the French mustard when it comes to entertaining the Brits.