Living in Paris

15 signs you’ve been in Paris too long

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Once you stop believing customer service exists and have yelled at an accordion player, maybe it's time to leave Paris.

1. No sound makes you want to kill things more than an accordion

If bagpipes had a sadistic continental cousin, it would be the accordion. The only reasonable solution to the citywide rage-tinnitus they cause is to lob them all keyboard first into the Seine.

2. Sitting outside in the bleak midwinter is a completely normal thing to do

Sitting outside at the majority of cafés, bars, and restaurants is what Parisians do best, come rain or shine – or snow. Not even a mid-February blizzard can scare the hardiest of us back inside, mainly because the outdoor heaters in this city are probably the best on earth.

3. Smoking doesn’t seem really disgusting anymore

Despite the stink, images of nicotine junkies on the boxes and the indoor smoking ban, it seems like everyone here is still puffing away on a clope – and no one bats an eyelid. After a couple of months, you actually get used to smelling faintly of old ash after a night out.

4. You mutter to yourself in public about how ridiculous everyone/thing is

Muttering out loud to yourself is perfectly acceptable, especially if some connard hits you in the face with an umbrella, or a stone-cold metro hound slides into your seat after you’ve begun bending your knees and everything.

5. Your neighbourhood is where you spend most of your time

After a while you figure out where all the stuff you like to do is, then you rent an apartment near all of that stuff. Life is just easier that way, especially if you have friends in the quartier. Who wants to get a metro or, heavens forbid, an RER to their favourite places anyway?

6. The only fireworks you care about explode from the Eiffel Tower on 14th July but you’d never actually go there to watch them

Figuring out how to pee in a crowd of thousands at the Champ de Mars after a three bottles of wine just isn’t worth it. Instead, you prefer spending Bastille Day with whichever friend has the best view, relieving your bladder whenever you feel like it.

7. Customer service is no longer something you believe in

In Paris, the customer is usually wrong and is generally considered an inconvenience. After a while, rare encounters with polite, effective service start to feel like hallucinations.

8. Washing your hair isn’t something you need to do every day

Washing your hair daily isn’t conducive to creating that iconic 'French girl’s do'. What you need is a little second-day grease, some dry shampoo and a healthy dose of devil-may-care nonchalance, also known as I-couldn’t-be-bothered-to-get-up-earlier, or I-have-no-hot-water-because-Parisian-buildings-are-old-and-broken.

9. There are right and wrong places to board a metro train

You know exactly which door on which carriage opens closest to the connecting train and/or most convenient exit at most metro stations.

10. Annoying things make you curse more

Your bus is stuck in traffic, ça te fait ch-er! You drop your groceries, ça te fait chi-r! Isn’t language fun?

11. You have a mugging/assault story you tell frequently

Like all things, being mugged is infinitely better when you can share the experience, for the 16th time, over beers, with the latest visitors from home. Bonus points for retaliatory headlocks.

12. You expect something tiny when you order a coffee

Espressos, allongés and cafés crème all come in receptacle, no-bigger-than-a-large-egg cup. While strong, these dinky little caffeine hits are only sufficient if you’ve been shrunk by a ray gun – but you can just get two.

13. You don’t dress up to go out per se

Getting ‘dressed up’ to go out is for fools. Add lipstick to your existing outfit and you’re good to go.

14. Most of your wardrobe is black

You can spill red wine on black clothes and no one can tell. Being chic has nothing to do with it.

15. You know your way around Les Halles

The shopping center at Les Halles is essentially the fourth ring of hell, as detailed in Danté’s Inferno, only there are some fairly decent shops. It’s impossible to navigate the first 60 times you go, and after that it’s just unpleasant. A woman once came up to me in tears, screeching, “Je cherche la Fnac, aidez moi!” — true story.


Kathy Saunders / Reprinted with permission of Matador Network.

Kathy Saunders Originally from Devon in the UK, Kathy has spent the last six years as a student, a babysitter and writer in Paris, as well as a pizza connoisseur and writer­on­location for a year in New York City. She has a thing for pine trees, and enjoys drinking too much coffee, especially if it’s in a really big cup. Thumbnail credit: Demi-Brooke.

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