Paris: Insider Stories by Outsiders

Baguettes, Edith Piaf and romantic walks along the Seine: one does not necessarily have to visit, let alone live in Paris, to get an idea of it. But how much of this is an authentic image of the French capital? Here are eight twenty-somethings from across the globe sharing their experiences of living in Paris.

HANNA, 25, PUN-LOVER FROM TRIER
TIME SPENT IN PARIS: 27 MONTHS

Hanna @Lamarck Caulaincourt 75018

Hanna @Lamarck Caulaincourt 75018

Paris is…
...a pretty woman that drives you crazy. 

One Parisian cliché you actually experienced?
All clichés are true. The city smells like freshly baked croissants in the morning; French people always find a reason to drink; there are countless strikes; people look absolutely stunning; romantic love is complicated and you can find the best cheese in every supermarket.

Your craziest story in Paris.
It is maybe not crazy crazy but I will never forget this oh so disturbing picture of a woman who was dressed all in Chanel and wore this super expensive-looking fur coat but was digging in the garbage for food...

Bad experiences.
The dilemma of finding an apartment: when you come to Paris you need to have a French bank account to get an apartment but at the same time you have to have an official address in Paris to open a French bank account...makes no sense at all, I know.

5 Things to do in Paris.
- Go to Chez Arsène, it's a great bar in the 18th.
- Stay up until the first boulangerie opens its doors and get a fresh baguette. 
- Smoke a joint in Hôtel Amour's garden.
- Visit the Musée National Gustave Moreau.
- Jump on the metro without a ticket.
  

MATT, 24, FOODIE FROM BIRMINGHAM
TIME SPENT IN PARIS: 24 MONTHS

Matt @home 75005

Matt @home 75005

Paris…
…is all about looking your best and throwing the most shade.

How has living in Paris influenced your perception of it?
People have this romantic idea about Paris. It is romantic but there is also this other side which you can’t see unless you live here. It’s a lot harsher than people seem to believe. I would say Paris is just a slower paced version of New York. You definitely have to grow a thick skin to survive in Paris. 

One Parisian cliché you actually experienced?
I always had a resting bitch face so I fit in quite well. People don't smile and Parisian waiters are famously rude – I would say that can be true if you don't know how to approach the situation: just start with a bonjour and a smile and you will go really far.

Tell me about the craziest story you had in Paris.
We managed to sneak into the Valentino Haute Couture show in January. We told them we were from MTV so they took us backstage. We drank champagne, were hanging out with the models and I even bumped into Mister Valentino himself.

Bad experiences.
I would say alcohol is involved in all of them:
- being thrown out of a cab and leaving my favourite sunglasses in the car on my birthday.
- going to a masquerade party from school and ending up having sex with a stranger while watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle, super cheesy but also disillusioning as I found out that he lied to me the whole time.
- And oh well, the French bureaucracy makes you wanna drink alcohol. Getting a Visa or dealing with the bank is a nightmare: everything is done by post and is generally hand written.

5 Things not to do in Paris.
- Do not make eye-contact in the metro. 
- Don’t just assume that people speak English, for fuck’s sake learn a few French phrases. 
- Avoid the Champs-Elysées at all costs.
- Don't go to Ladurée; Pierre Hermé makes much better macaroons. 
- Don't wear sweat pants and gym clothes in public. Put in some effort, please. 

What do you miss?
Good Mexican food. And my parents just got a puppy, I wanna go home and play with it.
 

LAURA, 27, DENIM ENTHUSIAST FROM CALIFORNIA
TIME SPENT IN PARIS: 28 MONTHS

Laura @Abesses 75018

Laura @Abesses 75018

How has living in Paris influenced your perception of it? 
Even banal daily routines such as doing laundry or going to the grocery store turn into mini adventures. Paris is a fun city and full of characters.

One Parisian cliché you actually experienced?
The French say C’est pas possible a lot. Even when things are possible. 

Tell me about the craziest story you had in Paris.
Is this going on the Internet?

5 Things to Do in Paris.
- Go people watching and talk for hours in a French café instead of walking around with a
  Starbucks coffee that is the size of your head.
- Go to Parc Monceau or Buttes Chaumont, sit in the sun and read a book.
- Check out the super romantic teahouse in the Musée de la Vie Romantique in the 9ième. 
- Go dance all night and stay awake until the sun comes up and see the city come alive.
- Check out some 2nd hand shops in the Marais (Episode, 12-16 Rue Tiquetonne).

5 Things not to do in Paris.  
- Never go up to someone without saying Bonjour, especially not when asking a question. 
- Never go to big clubs - it's just not fun.
- Never go out in the Latin quarter.
- Don't talk extremely loud in English on the metro. Just don’t. 
- Don't walk around with your phone in your hand because honestly you might never see it
  again. 

What do you miss here in Paris?
The loose spirit of California. I miss watching some stupid American TV shows and I miss my hair turning blonder on the beach.

LORY, 24, STORYTELLER FROM NEW YORK CITY
TIME SPENT IN PARIS: 30 MONTHS

Lory @Blanche 75009

Lory @Blanche 75009

How has living in Paris influenced your perception of it?
I came with rose coloured glasses, but realising they don't help, I took them off and stayed anyway.

One Parisian cliché you actually experienced?
I found myself becoming the cliché: American girl goes to Paris, finds French guy, falls in love and gets married. Reeeeeeeally didn't see that coming. 

Your craziest story in Paris.
Meeting a guy on tinder two weeks after I got here and marrying him two years later. 

Bad experiences. 
I once got rejected by a French ad agency because I made a typo in an email. Plot twist: I had a French person write it.

What do you miss?
My mother's cooking, a proper Colombian coffee and pandebono within a two street radius of the best Indian mango lassis.

TAM, 22, GEEK FROM FRANKFURT
TIME SPENT IN PARIS: 17 MONTHS

Tam @Sacré Coeur 75018

Tam @Sacré Coeur 75018

Paris is…
...very vibrant but at the same time cold and anonymous. There is a lot going on but it is hard to penetrate social circles.

One Parisian cliché you actually experienced?
Going to the park with friends to eat baguettes, cheese and red wine.

Your craziest story in Paris.
Jumping into the Canal Saint-Martin.

Happy experiences.
It's not the city itself that makes you feel at home but it's the people you meet: I was dating this girl I was really in love with for a while and that was the period I truly started to feel like home in Paris.

5 Things to do in Paris.
Get a Vélib' and bike from one end of the city to the other;  it's the best way to discover it.
- Get a group of friends together, get alcohol, get food and go to the Canal Saint-Martin and
  chill there.
- Visit Montmartre and sit on the stairs by the Sacré Coeur.
- Go to Buttes Chaumont, especially during the summer.
- This is probably cliché but spend an entire afternoon in a café: eat a croissant, read a book
  and watch people go by.
 

ELLI, 23, ART STUDENT FROM VIENNA
TIME SPENT IN PARIS: 18 MONTHS

Elli @Strasbourg-Saint-Denis 75010

Elli @Strasbourg-Saint-Denis 75010

Paris is… 
...my second home.

How has living in Paris influenced your perception of it? 
In the beginning, I thought I would come to a bobo chic city with no underground scene. Now I know that it’s anything but that.

In what way did it change you?
“Je m’en fous”, has become my life motto.

Your craziest story in Paris.
Dating a guy whose band has over 60 000 likes on Facebook.

Bad experiences: 
- My iPod got stolen while I was still listening to music on the metro.
- I dated a guy until he confessed to me that he had a girlfriend.
- I also locked myself out of my apartment today.

5 Things not to do in Paris.  
- Taking the metro during rush hour.
- Buying fruit and vegetables in super markets, rather go to fresh markets for that (Bastille).
- Giving your number away too quickly. 
- Going to big clubs. 
- Crossing the river once you are at Rive Droite.

ANONYMOUS, 27, WORLD-SAVER FROM CAPE TOWN
TIME SPENT IN PARIS: 19 MONTHS

Anonymous @Strasbourg-Saint_Denis 75010

Anonymous @Strasbourg-Saint_Denis 75010

One Parisian cliché you actually experienced?
Purchasing a striped turtle neck and wearing it religiously.

Your craziest story in Paris.
A date that was annoyingly perfect: we watched a great film at an old theatre, then he took me for a ride on his scooter past the Opera, Louvre, Seine and home before surprising me with some gelato on our way there.

Bad experiences. 
- Someone refusing to help me even after I spoke to them in my attempted ‘pas mal’ French.
- Homesickness.
- January in Paris (long, wet and grey!).

Your saddest moment.
There have been many sad turning points in the world I have experienced in Paris: Paris Attacks in 2015, Trump’s victory, Brexit, Worst humanitarian crisis UN has seen since WW2 with famine escalating, Syrian war, Yemen, #JusticeForTheo, etc … It certainly is a dark chapter in the history books and I have experienced the intensity of much of it in Paris.

5 Things not to do in Paris.
- Staying in the city for most of August.
- Buying baguettes in super markets before 8:00PM.
- Not saying Bonjour before asking for something.
- Not giving the city and its diversity a chance.
- Not having your stock of red wine during January.

VERONIKA, 25, TEA-ADDICT FROM KIEV
TIME SPENT IN PARIS: 31 MONTHS

Veronika @PorteDorée 75012

Veronika @PorteDorée 75012

Paris is… the perfect mix of almost everything you could ever want from a city: beautiful architecture & great exhibitions for the culture geeks and vibrating nightlife every single day of the week for the ones craving for excitement.

How has living in Paris influenced your perception of it? 
It gave me a more realistic opinion of the city - yes, it's crowded, the lines to the museums are endless, the rents are expensive and the flats are small. It's expensive, it's polluted - but you just learn to accept those things and embrace the positive sides.

One Parisian cliché you actually experienced?
The Parisians being the most arrogant and stuck up breed of the French. Them having amazing and effortless style, them eating baguette the whole time and staying thin nevertheless. 

Happy experiences.
- Finding my 3rd apartment (finally with 2 separate rooms!).
- Being able to travel thanks to my job.
- Discovering the nearby areas around France.
- Attending the most amazing secret live concerts I've ever been to in my life.
- Meeting new people and being amazed by the beauty of this city every single day.

Mia Windisch-Graetz