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10 Little Things I learned from Living in Paris!

Ever since I was little, I had those ‘vintage Paris’ posters hanging in my room, the fantasy in my head, and even an Eiffel Tower bedspread. What I didn’t have was a grasp of the reality of actually moving to Paris and living in Paris.

Because let’s face it, there are things I learned in Paris, that I couldn’t have learned from a textbook or even a well-crafted memoir. Some things you have to learn for yourself.

I think a lot of bloggers out there, myself included often try and omit the negative side of travel in order to not sound too negative or pessimistic. The reality is that sometimes things can, and do, go wrong. Please bear in mind that these are just my own observations and perceptions of Paris so will definitely not be the same for everyone.

things i learned from living in paris after living there for a year

Nevertheless, from the age of ten, I did little things and made small changes that would eventually enable me to fulfill my dream of living in Paris, at least for a year. I chose a university course that allowed me to study abroad and studied even harder.

Before I knew it, in August 2015 I was packing a couple of suitcases and hopping on a plane to Paris. So what did living in Paris for a year teach me about the city of love? Please note that, as of 2022, I have spent years living in Paris and currently reside in the French capital!

10 things I learned in Paris, France! (after living there for a year)

#1 Everyone and their grandma will have some advice to give you about Paris (and living in Paris)!

Oh, there was this one time I was in Paris in the 60s…” As much as I love hearing stories like this, I truly believe that the best way to truly get to know a city is to get a little bit lost and discover new and exciting things for yourself.

Plus, the city is constantly changing, even advice from six months ago can quickly become out of date. The best way to get to know Paris is to do just that; get lost, explore, wander (read: take your camera), and find little oases in the heart of this time.

For example, this one time we got lost on the way to Buttes Chaumont and ended up stumbling on a hidden Paris Vineyard. The charm of Paris is that each time you discover something new about the city, it feels like you’re the first person to discover it for centuries!

#2 The Eiffel Tower isn’t really in the centre of the city.

I guess everyone thinks that the Eiffel Tower must be at the centre of the city because it features in about 99.9% of tourist brochures for the French Capital. I know I thought this…

In reality, the Eiffel Tower is actually situated in the West of the city and the real center is at Notre-Dame. There’s even a little plaque in the center of the Parvis de Notre Dame known as Paris Point Zero. It’s from here that all distances in France are measured.

things i learned in paris after living there for a year

#3 Everything is sent by post (Par la Poste).

And when I say ‘everything is sent par la post’, I mean literally everything. That time when I wanted to cancel my phone contract? Par la Poste. And when I wanted to cancel my rental contract?

Par la Poste. Even though this can be super inconvenient at times, like those times when a document is particularly time sensitive, I think it also adds to the charm of the city.

I mean, how many other cities in the world encourage you to take lunch breaks where you genuinely have the chance to enjoy your meal, or where sitting down for a coffee and watching the world go by has become an art form in itself?

#4 French guys are just regular guys (who speak French)!

Everyone has these romantic notions about French men. I mean, I get it, their accents are gorgeous. However, I went on Tinder dates when I lived in the city, spoke to guys in clubs and the reality was that the men were, for the most part, like the guys at home. Some guys are great (like my boyfriend- aha, I hope you’re pleased I’ve mentioned you) and others only want one thing (sigh).

#5 You have to really try to learn the French language

Of all the things you learn from living in France, you should already know that obviously, the main language spoken in France is French! While it can be hard to continuously speak French, it’s true that the easiest way to get to learn a new language quickly is to well and truly immerse yourself in it. This means watching French-language films, and reading books in French!

As soon as you open your mouth and are halfway through that first ‘Bonjour,’ the waiter/ shop assistant will suss out that English/ American/ Candian accent you’ve been trying to hide like a James Bond spy. And just like that, your cover is blown.

The reality is that you really have to make an effort to speak French and hone your language skills, because most people you meet (especially in the touristic areas of town), will be 100 times better at English than your French is. And, let’s face it, it’s all too easy to slip back into the easy familiarity of conversing in English.

Fancy learning some more French? Here are 20 useful French phrases!

things i learned in paris after living there for a year

#6 Bread, patisseries, and Wine Taste better while living in Paris!

There’s this saying that goes ‘everything tastes better in Paris’. Okay, I don’t know if that’s actually a real saying but it’s true nonetheless. I don’t really know what they do to those baguettes, but they taste like a little bit of heaven. For more inspiration, be sure to check out our guide to the best bakeries in Paris.

And don’t even get me started on the macarons (side note- macarons weren’t actually invented in France). Plus you can bet that when you leave the city of light, you’ll soon be craving that €3 glass of wine you had under the heated lamp on the terrace, or that freshly baked baguette you shared with your best friend.

#7 Always buy a metro ticket or update your navigo (a weekly or monthly pass that allows you to travel anywhere on Île de France).

You can go months in the city without seeing a ticket inspector and it can make you lazy and not want to spend your money on tickets. However, after months of seeing no controllers, suddenly your tickets are being checked twice a day. After watching people get €50 fines for a €1.49 journey, you know it’s just not worth jumping over that ticket barrier (no matter how tempting it may seem!)

#8 There are a ton of free things to do in Paris!

Paris can be expensive, particularly if you only stick to the touristy areas. However, if you look hard enough, there are a million and one free things to do in the city, especially while you’re living in Paris.

Some of my favourites include visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery (final resting place of Heloise and Abelard) and wandering around the 18e arrondissement of Montmartre.

#9 People say it how it is!

There’s this horrible myth that French people, particularly Parisians, are rude and arrogant. I wholeheartedly disagree. Instead, I think that this reputation has probably stemmed from the fact that Parisians are honest and tell it like it is- which there’s nothing wrong with. Besides, what’s wrong with a little straight up no BS once in a while?

If you make a little effort to speak French (even simple things like ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’), then people will be polite and you’ll get by just fine. If you want to try and speak some French for yourself while in the City of Love, here’s a quick guide to ordering coffee in France just like a local!

things i learned in paris after living there for a year

#10 You start romanticizing the city whenever you leave. 

I genuinely think my Instagram feed paints a better picture of the city when I’m away from Paris than when I’m actually living in Paris! Just like every other city, Paris has positive and negative aspects.

From a whole load of culture (on the positive side) to the constant smell of pee on the metro (definitely a negative), there are too many pros and cons about the city to list. Paris is a lot like a city of Marmite; many people hate it and even more love it…

#11 The emergency number for France is 112

When I had finally navigated across Paris by train and by metro, I arrived on my street to find that it had been cordoned off to vehicles… Anyway, I carried on walking along the street and, of course, it was my building that was on fire. I arrived at my front door to two fire trucks and many gendarmeries going in and out of the building.

What a unique start to life in Paris! Luckily, everyone was okay and within a few hours, and as the fire was on the other side of the building, I quickly settled into my new apartment! Incidentally, the emergency number for all emergency services from a mobile phone is 112 in France (this is also the emergency number Europe wide).

#12 There really is a café on every corner!

There is quite literally a café on every street corner (and a bookstore for good measure- not that I’m complaining)! All cafés serve expresso only so no Americanos for you, my friend. Luckily, I’ve written a comprehensive guide on how to order coffee in Paris.

When eating out, I have seen a lot of people with things that aren’t on the carte and so make sure that you always ask for the chef’s recommendation or ‘plat du jour’. Also, bear in mind that rather than order an expensive bottle of water, you can get water by free if you order a ‘carafe d’eau’.

#13 Lunchtimes really are a thing

Yep, everything is closed during lunchtime for at least an hour, sometimes two. The bank, the tax office, you name it: if you need an essential service during lunchtime, it will probably be closed!

#14 Stunning architecture is everywhere

If there’s one thing I really learned while living in Paris, it’s that breathtakingly stunning architecture can be found just around every turn and corner. From the typical Haussmannian style to Art Nouveau, there truly is no shortage of beautiful buildings in Paris.

things i learned in paris after living there for a year
things i learned in paris after living there for a year

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Louie Houghton-Germelman

Sunday 2nd of July 2017

I first knew Paris in the '60s when $5 a day was a reality. It is good to know that her charms have endured. Getting lost or 'wandering', is definitely the way to see any city, but you're rewarded more in Paris.

Ken Toong

Thursday 16th of February 2017

Paris is like a mistress You are overwhelmed with her beauty on your first visit. You fall in love with her on your second visit. You want to move in with her on your third visit. Ernest Hemingway and his Lost Generation buddies from the US fell for her charm in the roaring twenties.

Marguerite

Sunday 5th of February 2017

"French guys are just regular guys..." - very true! And yes, there definitely is something about Paris, it never leaves you. Great article :) I'm headed back to Paris in a few weeks, will be checking your blog for tips!

Darina

Monday 16th of January 2017

Very inspiring post! Maybe I will live in Paris some day for a while :)

Ella

Sunday 15th of January 2017

I love this post! I'm a massive fan of Paris and if there's any city that I'd gladly come back to again and again, it's this one. I completely agree with many of your points, especially the one about the 'Parisian Rudeness'. I much prefer this honesty and direct communication from people and I don't think it's rudeness at all. This post has me wanting to book flights back to the city right now haha. Thanks for sharing! :)

Sophie Nadeau

Monday 16th of January 2017

Hi Ella, thanks so much for reading! I totally agree, I could spend every single holiday simply going back to Paris! It definitely annoys me when people pass Parisians off as 'just rude'!

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