Ever since I started learning French as a bright-eyed middle schooler, I dreamed about living in Paris. Decades of cinematic clichés filled my head with a number of unrealistic expectations: black-clad fashionistas, the classically elegant fumeur, and baguettes for every meal (the last one being more or less true). Now that I’ve been studying here for the past two months, I’m starting to reflect just how much the Parisian myth stacks up to my reality. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
Number 1: You won’t always love Paris in the rain (fuck you, Woody Allen)
It rains here. A lot. And usually on the day you forget your parapluie. Sure, I’m a romantic at heart. But after two weeks straight of gray skies and soggy streets, the endless precipitation somehow manage to lose it’s charm.
Number 2: You might find yourself in a pile of (literal) shit.
Parisians love their dogs. A few hundred thousand odd dogs live within the city limits. The amount of excrement that results from this population is honestly astounding. And to the best of my knowledge, no fine in Paris exists for not picking up after your dog (you can imagine how this might be a problem). So although you might be tempted to look up in awe at the beautiful Haussmannian architecture or marvel at the magnificent Parisian monuments, don’t forget to watch where you step!
Number 3: You might find yourself in a pile of (figurative) shit.
Last weekend, I was pickpocketed in the metro for the first time. In broad daylight, and during a time when the metro wasn’t even particularly busy. Not to mention that I was in a station that a frequent almost everyday, in a place that after two months had become very much familier. One minute my wallet was there, and in the few seconds that I had let my guard down – bam. I lost my debit card, my credit card, my drivers license, and quite a lot of money.
Yeah, it’s a shitty situation. But I realized that the only way to get through something like this is to think about the positive. I could have lost my cellphone or my passport, both of which would have been much harder to replace. With some help, I was able to quickly contact my bank and the credit card company to freeze my accounts. And I learned – I was able to file a police report entirely in French (which is something I’ve never even had to do in English!).
Life gave me some citrons and I made citron pressé (do pardon the anglicisme).
Number 4: You might fall in love with something – or someone – you can’t keep.
If you’re like me, you might meet someone in la ville de l’amour. You might start to fall in love with him – or the language, or the culture, or the city itself. You might forget that in some ways, studying abroad can be a dream. And one day in the not-so-distant future, you’ll have to wake up.
Your time here is fast and fleeting, so it’s true that you have to make everyday count. There’s a million and one things to do, and you only have so much time to explore.
Because Paris, despite its dog poop and rainy days, is truly a magical place to be.