An American in Paris
This article was written by Trevor Hudson, published on 29th July 2010 and has been read 6323 times.
“My name is Trevor Hudson and I am a senior at San Diego State University in California. I am working on getting a Bachelor’s Degree in European Studies, with an emphasis in French Language. I chose Paris because I needed to study abroad in a French speaking country, and felt like there was no place other than Paris that I could consider.
“Ah, Paris, the city everyone dreams of visiting… and perhaps dreams of studying in. A lot can happen a year abroad in Paris but no matter what, it will be worth it in the end. Although you may have this specific image of the city and what life may be like in the city, don’t forget that Hollywood glams everything up to make it look perfect. I personally do feel that Paris is the prettiest city in the world, no doubt about it; however, life in Paris can be far from glamorous. I definitely had my love/hate relationship with the city; some days were AMAZING whereas other days, all I wanted to do was get as far from the city as possible.
“Whether it is tourists or the Parisians themselves, the people in Paris can often make life difficult on you. Living in Paris for a year, you will see the different waves of tourist seasons. Some months it will be just you and the locals whereas other months, it will be impossible for you to walk the streets at a reasonable pace since you will constantly be dodging people. Also, I don’t know whether it was because I was American or what but the Parisians were always very difficult people to put up with, and I was never able to figure them out completely. They never seem happy; they are annoyed when you are a tourist and speak English to them YET if you live there and speak French to them and they can tell that you are foreign, they sometimes will just respond in English, which does not help if you are trying to immerse yourself in the language. Also, when going to a business or a government office, you will quickly learn about what they call “Système D” which essentially is when you could ask someone a question and he can tell you an answer but if you asked his co-worker, she could tell you something completely different… or you could ask the same person the question the next day and get a completely different answer. There are rules but they seem to make them up as they go along. It makes life very difficult sometimes but you will not be alone. The Parisians have to put up with this too but they are just used to it.
“Before leaving for Paris, my life revolved around going to the gym for physical activity; however, unless you go to Université de Paris X-Nanterre, do NOT count on being able to work out in a gym. Gym memberships in Paris start at the lowest 80 or 90 Euro per month… it is cheap at Nanterre BUT they only have about 10 machines in a very small room. If you are interesting in swimming, however, they have a very nice Olympic sized pool which is not as crowded as the several community pools that Parisians flock to at all times of the year. I was interested in becoming a runner when I came to Paris, and I can tell you that there is nothing like running in that city. It is beautiful running through the streets, through the many parks (notably: Champs de Mars, Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, Jardin de Tuilleries, or Parc de Monceau), and along the Seine (on Sundays and holidays the highway running along the river is closed for pedestrians making it the perfect day to go for a run).
“With movies such as Ratatouille, you may be excited to experience the “best food in the world” in Paris; however, if you are on a student budget, don’t count on it. Your cheapest food will come from the grocery stores. Inexpensive ones include: Franprix, Ed, G20, Carrefour, and Leader Price. You will find that the cheapest food, the food you will be living off of, will all be carbs—A LOT of pasta. As for take-out food, the cheapest is Falafel (best places are Maoz in Latin Quarter and L’As du Falafel in Le Marais). For you meat lovers, Extra Pita Gyros in the Latin Quarter are only 4 Euro and DELICIOUS, and for all students, the CROUS cafeterias at all of the Paris Universities are dirt cheap!”
Best Picnic Spot: Champs de Mars (trust me, not just tourists picnic here, especially during low season), Pont des Arts, Canal St. Martin
Favorite Inexpensive Café: Café Notre Dame (cheap food & chocolat chaud with a spectacular view)
Favorite Sunday Night Hangout: Coolin Irish Pub (Blues/Swing Music), Le Caveau des Oubliettes (Live music below the streets of the Latin Quarter in a 1400s Prison)
Favorite Guilty Pleasure: Breakfast in the American Diner, in Le Marais.
Why not read more from Trevor, with his Frugal Paris post?