With an entire semester ahead of you, and a multitude of endless opportunities within Paris itself, you have so much to see, experience, taste, and learn.
Whether you’re excited, nervous, or a little of both, you’ll be stepping off the plane into a whole new world — a new language, a new culture, and new ways of doing almost everything. How can you make the most of your study abroad experience while soaking up everything that Paris has to offer?
DO study your French — you’ll be glad you did.
Whether you are starting from zero, just trying to perfect your “bonjour” and “merci”, or already more advanced in the language, speaking some French will make a big difference in your Paris experience.
Yes, a large majority of service staff and other people speak at least enough English to facilitate a conversation, so it’s true that you won’t starve or be completely lost. However, even if you can’t carry out a conversation in French, at least being able to say “hello”, “please”, “sorry”, and “thank you” in the local language makes a big difference.
This helps people understand that you are humbly and sincerely making an effort to speak their language. This, in turn, will make them more likely to feel more empathetic and friendly to you than if you just start out demanding that they speak to you in English.
Besides, if you don’t speak some French, there are so many aspects of everyday French life that you might be missing out on — local customs, pop culture, and other nuances that are difficult to understand or explain outside of their native language. Keep working on your French so that you can get out of the touristy, English-dominant comfort zone and experience more authentic local life.
Greet as the locals do
Depending on the culture you come from, getting used to the French greeting style of one kiss on the cheek may require an adjustment period, during which you may find yourself doing the awkward “handshake or kiss?” dance with your new acquaintances. Sooner or later, though, you’ll become accustomed to this friendly practice, and make it part of your normal interactions.
Up your style game
The French tend to prefer a sleek, minimalist clothing style, favoring neutral or dark colors. As many foreigners have admired during their time in Paris, it works for them too! This means that your flamboyantly colored outfit with wild details and accessories is likely to stand out a bit on the streets of Paris.
Even more of a fashion no-no is wearing your college sweatsuit to run errands. You’ll never have felt so frumpy, especially when the beautiful French woman next to has applied elegant red lipstick to run to the corner store. But do not despair — think of this as your chance to take cues from local fashionistas and take your own style game to the next level.
Take advantage of the excellent public transportation
From an extensive network of local buses, subway, and regional trains, to innovative rental services for bikes and cars, Paris is renowned for its excellent public transportation. There are also significant discounts available for students and young people that make it even more accessible. When choosing a place to live, it’s a good idea to choose a place that’s conveniently located to a metro or bus station, so that you can easily move throughout the city.
Utilize the network of resources for students
Paris is one of the world’s top cities for international students, and many resources have been developed to make it easier for students to live and thrive there. Whether you’re looking for informational websites, apps, forums, discount programs, language exchange, online marketplaces, affordable things to do, or anything else, it almost certainly exists! Check out this site for a great list of online and offline resources for students in Paris.
Relax and enjoy the French joie de vivre.
The pace of life in France is different. For some students it requires an adjustment but don’t lose sight of what is so beautiful about the famous French joie de vivre. Gather some friends, sit back, slow down, and savor your wine, bread, cheese, and each other’s company. The rest is just details.