Having lived in France for years, I’ve become used to the culture and the way day-to-day life is carried out. Things don’t seem as odd or as charming as they used to, and certain aspects of the French culture that used to leave my mouth gaping in disbelief are now things I just shrug about.
Memories flooded back last week when some close friends from Australia visited. We started off in Paris and made our way back to St Jean de Sixt here in the Aravis.
I watched their surprise when waiters barely spoke, let alone smile. I saw their delight when tasting French pastries, and I nodded in agreement when they talked about how sad and shocking it was to see so many homeless people on the streets of Paris.
Based on their observations and my memories, here are my ten tips for Aussies planning on coming to Paris:
1. The word ‘bof‘ works in most disagreeable situations, such as the fruit and veg man refusing to sell less than a bag-full of each fruit you’ve asked for or the waiter bringing a totally different version of the same breakfast you ordered the day before.
2. The Lindt chocolate shop is definitely an acceptable tourist attraction.
3. Yes, that man really is ‘tinkling’ in the street. Yes, that’s why the Metro smells like that.
4. ‘Monsieur‘ is pronounced ‘mis-yier’: saying ‘merci, mon-sher’ can be misheard as ‘merci, mon choux’ which is equivalent to ‘thanks babe’ in English (but there’s one very happy monsieur at a boulangerie in Paris).
5. The Latin Quarter of Paris is apparently on actual Latin time when it comes to trying to find a place open for a coffee in the morning (see tip 1).
6. The raised concrete roundabouts aren’t good to drive over and tend to cause traffic jams and a fair amount of public embarrassment (see photo).
7. Yes, those are flies buzzing around the cheese for sale, and no, the owner didn’t wash his hands after coughing and sniffing (see tip 1 again).
8. Personal space? No, it doesn’t exist in Europe. That man leaning his camera over your head at the Louvre while you’re having a quick sit-down probably thinks he’s being thoughtful by not dangling the camera strap in your face.
9. If you see ‘perdrix‘ on a menu, partridge is on offer. That’s probably of little help to us Aussies, so here’s an illustration of what your meal might have once looked like.
10. Keep that Aussie sense of humour at all times and you’ll have an enjoyable time, no matter how many times you have to say ‘bof‘.
In five days, we managed to see more sites in Paris, Annecy and St Jean de Sixt than I thought possible. More importantly, my friends helped remind me of all the quirky, brilliant and bizarre aspects of living in France that keeps me in France. France is for this Aussie.