Bonjour! I have been living is Paris for two months, and let me tell you, it has been absolutely amazing.
I am studying abroad with CEA and I decided to take part in the Early Start program, which meant I came here two weeks before the normal program started. I am so happy I decided to do Early Start because it allowed me to settle into the city before my class schedule started. Apart of the Early Start program was a Beginning French Conversation course. It was five hours a day, every day, for the two weeks. I did not think it was possible to learn so much in such a short amount of time!
Once the 100 other CEA-er’s came to Paris, the normal schedule took off. I am taking two classes while studying abroad, Mass Media and the Fashion Industry, and an intensive beginning French course at the Sorbonne. Both of these classes are super interesting and difficult (this is my first time every taking French and the course is strictly taught in only French), but I love how much I’m learning here!
The first reaction I received from many people when I told them I was studying abroad in Paris was a giant eye-roll. Everybody actually believes that the French are rude people that hate Americans. People kept telling me French horror stories and kept citing that Liam Neeson movie. Can I just say HOW FALSE THAT IS! I have been here for two months and have not had one single bad experience with a French person (the grocery store is a different story, but we’ll get to that at another time). I have met so many nice and helpful French people and I’ve actually befriended a few, too!
I think one of the coolest things I’ve learned since I’ve been here is that American’s are peaches, and the French are coconuts. What does this mean? Well, let me explain.
American’s are soft. We are really good at meeting new people and acting like we’ve been best friends forever even though we just spoke for the first time. We see life as a competition to have as many friends as possible, so we have no problem letting a ton of people in and having 1000+ friends of Facebook. We bruise easily and once you get past our soft exterior, we have a hard inside, afraid to open up because of what we’ve been hiding behind our fuzzy outside.
French are very hard. Not only can they slam shoulders when walking on the street without flinching, but they also do not open up to people that easy. They are happy with their small group of friends and see no need to have more than 300+ friends on Facebook. Although it’s difficult to crack a coconut, once you get inside you’ll realize the effort was well worth it. Being friends with a French person means that you actually talk to them and would hang out with them on a regular basis, which is sort of a foreign concept to us Americans (you know, ‘oh my god we should totally hang out’ even though we both know that’s not going to happen). The Parisians that I have made friends with have been open and welcoming to me since I met them. So I say, if you’re lucky enough to break a coconut, you’re lucky enough.
Paris is an amazing city and the people here are just as interesting. I’ve learned that if you come with an open mind and clear away all those negative misconceptions, you’ll experience this city the way it’s meant to be experienced. I’m here to live, study, and learn from the people, not be a tourist gawking on the streets. Act as if you’re meant to be here and you’ll be welcomed. Otherwise, watch your pockets.