You’ve just moved to Paris and don’t want to look like a tourist? Here are a few tips on how to blend in among the oh-so-chic Parisians.
It’s not as bad as you think. First, kissing people you just met only happens if you’re going out and meeting the friend of a friend. This is only for women, and women meeting men. However, men will only kiss other men if they are among family – if not, they will shake hands. The number of kisses can be tricky. In Paris, it is often a kiss on each cheek, but you should know that in Lyon it is often three kisses, and in the south of France, it can be four.
All in all, the French will only kiss in informal situations, so don’t expect anyone to kiss you if you go to a job interview.
Navigo Card and Velib’
Driving around Paris can be very time-consuming, especially during rush hour – and that’s without the struggle to find a parking space. Most Parisians take the metro, which covers a very wide area (14 lines), the bus, the tram and the RER – the express train network connecting Paris to the surrounding suburbs. Just so you know, some of the old metros and RER trains have doors that can open a few seconds before the train stops, so don’t be alarmed if people jump out while the train is still in motion.
If you take public transport everyday, registering for a Pass Navigo will make your life easier. This card allows you to swipe your way through every barrier, regardless of the type of transportation you are taking. You can buy a Pass Navigo for a week, a month or even a year for unlimited access, which is a lot cheaper than buying individual tickets.
If you want to go green, you can also rent a Velib’ bike. The Velib’ service allows you to use one of the 20,000 bikes to get around the city, and it’s quite cheap. Also, Paris has numerous cycle lanes, or bus/taxi/bike lanes. Be careful though, as it can be a little dangerous to cycle around Paris if you don’t know the city. Take some time to observe how people drive first.
If you live in Paris – actually, you probably won’t be living in Paris because it’s too expensive, but let’s say you work there – you will be mingling with the Parisian routine, which is Metro, boulot, dodo (or metro, work, sleep). But in between, you will also need to buy groceries and go out, so here are a couple of things you should know.
Parisians typically buy a baguette every morning (croissants are more of a weekend type of breakfast) at the boulangerie (bakery) down the street. There are boulangeries everywhere, and prices are quite similar (although you should watch out for the ones near tourist attractions). In any case, a baguette should never be more than €0.80 to €0.90.
Tipping in Paris is different than in other big cities. First of all, Parisians don’t tip as much as tourists do. Tipping in France is not mandatory, but shows your appreciation for good service. In a bistro, a tip can be between 5% and 10% of the bill.
When you enter a shop, you might get the loud “bonjour” coming from an unknown location behind a shelf, which makes it difficult to respond (but you should always do it anyway). This welcoming behaviour is mostly typical of clothing stores in main streets and big shopping centers. Don’t expect it in a big supermarket though.
Contrary to popular belief, Paris closes down on Sundays. Yes, it is the capital and you might think shops are open all the time, but unless you are walking down the Champs Élysees, or unless it’s Christmas, you can’t just go out and shop on a Sunday. The weekend is an important time to rest, for everybody.
Finally, depending on where you’re from, you may find Parisians to be rude or aggressive. On the metro for instance, people don’t look or smile at each other: if you happen to catch someone’s eye, don’t be surprised if they take it the wrong way. In fact, be prepared for some major shouting if you disturb the routine, such as being stuck on the roundabout without knowing where to go. The motto is: if you can’t drive, don’t!
The French also love to complain when something is not to their liking. Instead of finding this outrageous, give it a try too. It will help you blend in, and it is kind of liberating.
Overall, don’t worry! Paris is one of the most amazing cities in the world, and becoming a Parisian will help you survive anywhere.
For our October interview we head to Lisbon, Europe’s sunniest capital city. Language-loving, Austrian expat Britta shares her story of falling in love with Portugal’s capital while studying there.
Easy question to start! Tell us about yourself.
My name is Britta and I grew up in a small town in the south of Austria. I’ve always dreamed of living abroad and I’ve loved languages ever since I could read and write, I decided to study translation and interpreting with Spanish and Arabic as foreign languages. Two years ago I added Portuguese as a “side project“ without the slightest clue that just one year later it would turn into my “life project”.
Why did you move?
Let’s say I was at the right place at the right time. I was granted a scholarship to study Portuguese for eight months at a Portuguese University. Next thing I knew, it was September 2013 and I was sat on a plane bound for the Portuguese capital Lisbon (Lisboa), my new home. The months went by and when my course ended at the end of May this year, I felt like my “mission” in Portugal was still not complete. So, after a little reflective phase, I decided to look for a job to enable me to stay longer in Portugal.
In the end, finding something went quicker than I could ever imagine and I am more than grateful for that. I started my new job in the last week of August , which means that for now, my journey in Portugal will go on and, even though I don’t know for how long, I already know that, once I leave, I will have saudades para sempre.
What is the best thing about where you live now?
I can’t really decide between the excellent coffee you can get on almost any corner, the all-year-round pleasant weather (though the winter was a bit difficult at first and felt colder than in my “wintery” home country due to a lack of heating), the language, which is only the most beautiful language in the world (and I’m being very objective here, of course) or the Portuguese people.
Well, I think I will go with the extremely kind and warm people that are always so nice to be around. More than once I saw certain situations, such as Metro or bus strikes, or long queues, and was always amazed about how calm and patient the Portuguese are, where your average group of Austrians would already be on the verge of a total freak-out (no offense to my fellow Austrians though).
What (if anything) do you miss about home?
I don’t really miss places but, aside from food and some other little things, I miss my people most of all. Even though nowadays the world is a lot smaller thanks to the Internet, which allows you to stay in contact easily, it can also be quite hard to be far away from your friends and family. But well, my friends in Austria are spread all over the country, not to mention those who live abroad themselves, so missing people and not being able to see anyone at any time has always been, and will always be, a part of the game.
If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?
Obviously it would be the economic crisis Portugal is suffering at the moment. The unemployment rate is very high, and a lot of, especially younger, people are facing poverty even though they have a job. It makes me really sad, every time I hear about precarious work conditions or read yet another article about someone who decided to leave the country in search of a better job with better conditions and a more secure life. I really hope that the economic and financial situation of Portugal and the Portuguese will change soon for the better, because the people deserve so much more.
Do you plan on moving again in the future? If so, where and why.
For now I feel quite comfortable in Portugal, but I can also imagine moving back to Austria or to live somewhere in Latin America, Spain, North Africa or the Middle East, or wherever something or someone will guide me. I’m really not that picky.
What was the most difficult aspect of moving abroad?
Actually, the beginning was quite easy. From day one I felt at home in Lisboa and walked through the streets as if I had lived there for my whole life. Also, the people treated me as if I were one of them and only after a few days I was asked for the way and other information (mostly in Portuguese) and so on. However, there was a time when I missed my friends from home a lot (of course, I still do) and making new ones was harder than I imagined, or rather harder than it was in similar situations before. But fortunately, this is no longer the case and after all it was more of a personal situation that could have happened anywhere and has not necessarily to do with Portugal. Like I said, I felt at home here from the beginning.
Share your top three pieces of advice for people thinking about moving to Portugal
Learn the language. Portugal is one of those countries where you can get by and manage day-to-day life using English, since most of the people (especially in the bigger cities) have a very good command of the language. (Also, they are just too friendly NOT to help you, not matter which language you speak). But still, I can only recommend you to make an effort and try to speak the language, because, I think that this way it will be a lot easier for you to feel at home and like a part of society.
Don’t criticize the way things work (or don’t work). Yes, the country is in a bad financial and economic situation. Yes, the bureaucracy might be a bit complicated sometimes but in my experience its no more difficult than in other countries. Also, to compare Portugal with my home country, for everything that I thought worked better in Austria, I have found at least one other thing that works better in Portugal. Once you have made some close Portuguese friends, I’m sure you can discuss topics concerning the economy with them, if you wish to do so. But complaining about how bad X and Y are and how much better this works in your home country is just ignorant and rude.
Finally, be friendly and polite and don’t forget to smile and you will get along with basically everyone.
For those keen to live the American dream we have just launched our updated USA guide in French. Moving to the USA is daunting, the amount of visa paperwork alone is enough to discourage even the most determined expat, the visa and permits section of this guide provides you with a comprehensive overview of the types of visa available.
Once you have your visa and land in the US, you’ll quickly realise the streets aren’t actually paved with gold, so you’ll want to find a job. The jobs section of the guide includes topics such as, ‘How to find work’, and ‘Salary and working conditions’. If you’re looking to buy or rent property check the property portal and housing section for more information.
If, after you’ve settled in, you would like to see some of the country then our travel and leisure articles cover getting your driving licence, and all you need to know about the transport system. But you should know, that in a country which boasts the third highest number of cars per capita, you will probably need one.
Notre guide pour partir aux USA est en français !
Ceux qui veulent vivre le rêve américain seront ravis d’apprendre que nous venons de publier notre nouveau guide USA en français. Déménager aux États-Unis peut être inquiétant, et la procédure d’obtention de visa elle seule peut être démoralisante. Heureusement, la section Visas & Permis de notre guide vous détaille de manière simple tous les types de visa qui existent.
Une fois que vous aurez atterri aux États-Unis visa en main, vous vous rendrez vite compte que les rues ne sont pas pavées d’or ! Vous aurez donc besoin de trouver un travail. La section Emploi du guide vous conseille sur “comment trouver un emploi”, et vous donne des détails sur les “salaires et conditions de travail”. Si vous cherchez à louer ou acheter un bien immobilier, le portail logement et la section immobilier sont là pour vous aider.
Une fois installé, vous aurez peut-être envie de voir du pays : jetez un oeil à la section Voyages & Loisirs qui vous explique comment obtenir un permis de conduire américain, et vous dit tout ce qu’il faut savoir sur les transports en communs. Sachez quand-même que les États-Unis ont un nombre record de voitures par habitant, et qu’il vous en faudra surement une.