Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Moved to Paris…

The hardest thing to give up…an out-of-style béret that gives me away as an American.
Photo by Erica Simone

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Moved to Paris…

Parler Paris Previews…
A Weekly Community Calendar for English-Speaking Paris

Calendar #98

Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Paris, France

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Dear Parler Paris Reader,

There are so many things I wish I had known before moving to Paris.

This past weekend, even after eleven years, I found myself complaining to my French friends (who likely didn’t appreciate it, at all) about some of the same things that either haven’t changed, worsened or I simply can’t get used to. There is no doubt, that in many ways I have “crossed over” to see things from the French point of view, but the cultural differences can be so acute, and in so many situations, impossible to overcome.

On the train back to Paris from the Côte d’Azur Monday, I had time to reflect on these ideas and compiled a list of 17 things I wish I had known before I moved to Paris. The first one that came to mind was the first thing you traditionally think of doing when moving to another country — getting a visa. Being an American, where we follow the laws the way we are supposed to and telling a lie is worse than murder (thank you, George Washington), we applied for a “carte de séjour” knowing we would be staying more than 90 days, as the law says we should.

Oh, if I only knew then what I know now! I might not have been so quick to blindly follow the law. We half-heartedly joke at the French idea of truth: “There is the law. And there is the reality.” This is one cultural difference I’ve learned to cross, because if you don’t, and continue to blindly follow the law, you’ll forever fall into the deep French pits.

The most difficult cultural difference to overcome has been our idea of customer service where the “customer is king” to the French idea where the seller is “doing you a favor.” While it has changed drastically over the years as American-style retailing has infiltrated the French landscape (Starbucks, Gap, McDonalds, etc.), it can still be a challenge. I’ve learned never to expect to be able to return/refund any purchase without a major hassle, but I still fail to see the point of telling the customer, “No.” Just this past week, I actually had the owner of a small shop tell me that not only did she not know the price of the dinnerware she had on display, but that I must call her later that day to ask — she would not bother to call ME! I walked out thinking, “Yeah, right. Ha! You just lost that sale, babes.”

Perhaps the most fun cultural difference to cross is the use of flirtation to get what you want. American women (and I suppose, me, too), are taught that flirtation is a form of sexual harassment and therefore unacceptable behavior (even though it works). Here, it’s absolutely necessary and quite honestly, expected. Usually it’s me flirting with the waiter to get good service, but last night I had the opposite and quite pleasant situation. Upon entering the restaurant, the waiter made a point to compliment me on my very ordinary black beret (mostly worn by Americans and out-of-style French), to which I was surprised and amused. It started the whole evening off very right for both of us, and so the little game should.

And the hardest thing to give up? Those out-of-style bérets that give me away as an American.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. While both my computer and my brain were plugged in and the TGV was slipping down the smooth tracks to Paris, I jotted down the 17 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Moved to Paris to the tune of 10 typed pages and turned it into a “report” that readers could learn from. You can have it, too — it’s FREE with a two-year subscription to French Pr

operty Insider all this month (a savings of 20%, too!).

To learn more, visit /frenchproperty/insider or go directly to subscribe at /frenchproperty/insider/subscribetofpi.html

P.P.S. Read Jean Taquet’s March 1st Q’s and A’s at /parlerparis/practicalanswers.html

French Property Insider

Noise in the City of Light
By Adrian Leeds

Noise is the biggest nuisance plaguing Parisians. The principal cause: automobile traffic. Close to three million vehicles circulate every day over 1700 kilometers of roads in the cityFPI Subscribers Read On…

Learn how to buy property in France. French Property Insider is an e-mail newsletter from the editors of Parler Paris. Learn all the insights, recommendations, and discoveries about buying and investing in real estate in Paris and France that French Property Insider readers get every week.

Subscribe today!

Insider Paris Guides

* Excerpt from the Insider Guide to Practical Answers for Living in France

How does one get working papers in France? My situation is this: in October of last year, I came to France as a tourist without a visa. I have been here longer than three months, but my passport has never been stamped.

There is the legal approach to your question and there is your personal situation. The legal answer is that today there is no way to get any kind of residency permit or working papers if you are not legally in France. Today even getting married, which a fundamental right in France, does not give the right to stay in France legally. The only legal way is to go back to the US and apply for a visa…. See the guide for the complete answer….

The Insider Guide to Practical Answers for Living in France is packed with almost 300 questions from real people, for real people…and the practical answers that will save you countless hours of frustration. If you’re moving to France, this guide is a must!

Get your copy now!

Further Resources

* PARLER PARLOR 8TH ANNIVERSARY BUFFET AND CREPES PARTY! Join us Saturday, March 11 at 11 a.m. Conversation will start at 11 a.m., then stay at 12:30 p.m. for lunch! Cold Buffet and Dessert Crêpes with Wine and Juice, only 10 Euros. Plus, a special anniversary offer — TAKE 10 EUROS OFF A 10-SESSION CARD AND 20 EUROS OFF A 20-SESSION CARD THAT DAY ONLY! Practice your French or English in a fun and friendly environment with interesting people from all over the world at Parler Parlor. Visit

* Make sure your money goes as far as you do! Save money when transferring from dollars to euros! HiFX takes the pain and guesswork out of currency conversion. For more information, click here: /frenchproperty/insider/currencyonlineconvertor.html

* Experience Food and Cooking the French Way! On Rue Tatin Cooking School is run by Susan Hermann Loomis, an internationally-recognized food expert and the author of six cookbooks. Class sizes are small, giving you plenty of hands-on learning, and the recipes are geared to daily home cooking. Choose from her week-long cooking courses, or special themed classes including:

* April 10 – 14, 2006, Susan in Paris at Patricia Wells’ Left Bank Cooking Studio
* April 30 – May 5, 2006 Standard Week-Long Course
* May 14 – 19, 2006, Mother/Daughter Week

For more information visit or e-mail … and let Susan know you’re a Parler Paris Reader!

Calendar #98
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Paris, France


To access the complete Community Calendar, you now have two choices:

1. Click here for the online version with hot links to your favorite sites:

2. Click here for a printer-friendly text version:


We gladly run announcements for non-profit organizations. If you wish your community announcement to appear, please provide the text in ENGLISH just as you’d like it to appear and send it to Lynda Sydney:

We reserve the right to edit as necessary.
We cannot promise it will be run if the information is provided in French or if the format is unacceptable. Please use the following listings as your format guide.

Thank you, Adrian

Classified Advertising

Leeds Marais Guest Room or Entire Two-Bedroom Apartment

Available in its entirety May 19 – 30, 2006

Located in a 17th century Le Marais Hotel Particulier, this 70 square meter two-bedroom apartment with lots of light is nicely furnished and is perfect for a single woman in the freshly renovated guest room when owner Adrian Leeds is in or for up to 4 people when she’s traveling.

Pictures and more details available here: Marais Guest Room or Entire Apartment


Coming soon…Parler Paris Apartments rental representation at If you have a property ín Paris you’d like to keep booked and represented properly, please email Parler Paris Apartments at for more information.

For all short term rental apartments in Paris, take a look at /parlerparis/apartments or
/frenchproperty/insider/longterm.html for long term apartments.


Parler Paris Après Midi

Come for a drink and to meet and chat with other readers in Paris:

The next gathering is March 14, 2006Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group

Practice speaking French and English. Make friends, discuss interesting topics, learn about other cultures, progress in understanding and speaking, naturally and easily. Meets three times a week — come as often as you like.

Next Event: 8th Anniversary Celebration March 11th, 11 a.m. at Eurocentres. Watch for more information.


Subscribe to the PARISMARAIS monthly newsletter FREE
The Art of Living Guide to Le Marais.

Click here for a Special Happy New Year from Paris Marais


Buy and sell with Parler Paris classifieds: /parlerparis/advertise.html

Read past issues of Parler Paris: /parlerparis/issues/readpastissues.html
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Copyright 2006, Adrian Leeds®
Adrian Leeds Group, LLC, /

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