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Moving to France: Paris First Impressions

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Last Updated on 5th February 2018 by Sophie Nadeau

I arrived in Paris two weeks ago today, which is when I started living in France. And so, this post is most definitely overdue! Below you’ll find a list of my Paris first impressions; some are positive whilst others err on the side of negativity. I don’t want to sugar-coat Every. Single. Thing. in my life; keeping it real people 😉

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.

Here are my top 14 things I wish I’d learned before moving to Paris and some Paris first impressions:

1.My house would be on fire. (okay there was no way anyone could have known this- but still!)

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).

2. Rain

Bring an umbrella because the weather is very erratic… and when it rains, it rains! Don’t think London drizzle, think Paris pour! From the first day since I arrived, the weather hasn’t been a ‘single medium’ on any given day but actually, multiple weather events have occurred.


3. 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!

4. There’s 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’.


5. Queues

I have never before had to queue to enter the British Museum. I guess France is the most visited country in the world and so queues are inevitable. Also, people try and talk to you in lifts (please don’t speak to me, I’m British)!

6. Metro

I’ve discovered why the Parisians are so slender (and it’s not the wine and bread…). Hailed the world over as being one of the cheapest and most reliable subway systems, there are 301 stations! The station is more punctual and is open much later on the weekend (until 2 am) than the tube in London.

7. Fashion

Whilst it is true that most people seem to be wearing chic monochrome, I have also seen a lot of teenagers and young people wearing trainers (phew), meaning that when visiting Paris, you’re most welcome to ditch the heels! In fact, adopting French fashion for yourself is easily one of the French habits you should steal

8. Architecture

Paris is best known around the world over for its stunning architecture. Every arrondissement has its own unique style and charm so it is always exciting to visit a new one! Not only is Paris home to plenty of Haussmannian architecture, the Tour Eiffel and the Arc de Triomphe, but from living in France, I’ve learned that there’s plenty of quirky and offbeat architecture to see as well!


9.  Lunchtime

Yep, everything is closed during lunchtime for at least an hour, sometimes two.

10. University

Good thing I like a challenge because no one will help you figure out which courses to take. As in, I am still unsure as to whether or not I’m taking enough credits this term!


11. Catcalling. 

All the time; no reprieve. Most have been really insulting. However, I had a weird one on the tube the other day; a 50-year-old man approached me and said ‘you have long hair’. Erm, yeah sure. I have long hair. Okay. Let’s move on…

12. Par la Poste

Of all the Paris first impressions on this list, par la poste may well be the thing that surprised me most. Everything (and I mean literally everything) is par la post. One of my friends arrived this past weekend and said to me ‘I love receiving mail’. My reply ‘Well you’ll love France’. No bill can be paid online. You have to order your metro card, bank card, electricity bill PAR LA POSTE.

13. Crepes.

Literally everywhere sells crepes. I guess they are French…

14. When I first arrived in Paris…

A Parisian said to me ‘Paris might quite possibly be the best city in the world’ My response to this: ‘yeah, yeah, whatever’. However, as this past week has progressed, I’ve started to think that he may not have been all wrong at all. Perhaps of all my Paris first impressions, the city of love may well be the best city in the world! Here’s to Paris (me toasting with my €1.50 wine…)! 


About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!

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