The truth is this – I may as well be walking around Paris with an enormous ‘Look at me, I’m Clearly English’ sign above my head. No matter how hard I try to memorise the metro map, eat a baguette without cutting my mouth up or simply buy a magazine, there is no escaping the fact that I am obviously not a local.
I’ve recently finished reading a book – on my Kindle of course, it makes me look far more cosmopolitan (and far more English) to those sat around me on the RER – called ‘Paris Revealed’ by Stephen Clarke. It gives all sorts of tips about living as a resident in Paris and helps you to look a bit more inconspicuous and a bit less like a tourist. I loved it so much I’ve now started to read ‘A Year in the Merde’ by the same author. Stephen Clarke is an English man who moved to France for his new job and the book hilariously recounts all the fun and games he had in his first year living here. I definitely recommend his work if you’re thinking of moving here yourself!
<< It seemed that, as an EU citizen, I had to go to the ‘prefecture’ – the central police station – which was next to the flower market on the He de la Cite, just along the river from Notre Dame. Sounded very picturesque. All I had to do was take my passport, work contract, three passport photos, a recent electricity bill and the marriage certificates of any hamsters I’d owned since 1995, all photocopied on to medieval parchment. No problème. >>
I’ve had so many comparable situations myself; everything here is just that little bit trop bizarre. If you want to buy a magazine to busy yourself on a Sunday afternoon – don’t go to the supermarket as they don’t sell them. If you want a coffee with milk, make sure to ask for a coffee with cream instead. Or go to Starbucks when the language is international – except for when they ask for your name, and it results in them shouting ‘toll cafay avec vannee for Lou-ee-ss-aa’ and you don’t know if they’re presenting you with your order or if the girl next to you has a very similar sounding name and it’s actually for her.
Don’t forget either that here, escargots come in tins the same as tuna. I’m not sure margarine even exists and it’s perfectly ok to push your way onto the train before anyone’s even thought about getting off. Don’t worry if strange men sit next to you and ask you how you’re doing, or if you forget that you have to manually open the door to get off the metro.
And if things go wrong – shrug your shoulders in a ‘C’est la France’ sort of manner and then cry/laugh it off tout seul later on. But certainly remember that saying ‘je suis Anglais’ will get you out of pretty much any situation…