Paris — a city in France. It’s a place so magical, it sends Japanese tourists into an emotional tailspin, and not the good kind!
I recently saw a headline on the Matador Network, which has never accepted any of my travel writing pitches, that boasted “12 things I wish I knew before visiting Paris.”
When I saw that article, I thought, what a great idea! What better way to tell people you’ve been to Paris (France), while remaining humble and “down-to-earth” (only a real asshole would write an article called “12 Things I Already Knew Before I Went To Paris That Turned Out To Be Accurate,” right?)? (?)
That’s what I love about travel lists on sites like Matador. They’re so helpful! They help you (the reader, in need of information) and me (the writer, who needs to feel useful).
So here’s my take on such a unique concept, complete with not 12, but 13 things you should know before you go to Paris. Take it from me, because I already went to Paris.
1) They speak French
As it turns out, “French” is more than a mustard — it’s a form of communication. Try as you might, you won’t get anywhere in this town if you don’t speak the language, as French people are notorious for surrendering upon realizing you speak a foreign tongue.
2) A baguette is bread, not a small bag
Before my trip, I read up on something called “cognates,” which are words that look and sound the same in different languages, and even have similar meanings. “Perfect.” I said. “This will help me get around the fact that I don’t speak mustard.”
But every time I went shopping in Paris and asked for a baguette to carry the cheap drawings of the Seine that I’d bought for one euro, people looked at me funny, and then gave me a long, oval-shaped piece of bread. It was the strangest thing! As it turns out, a “bag-ette” is not a small bag, but a type of baked dough. Not bad, but they can take awhile to hollow out.
3) This is the filter end of the cigarette
Don’t light that part.
4) It’s totally hetero to drink white wine on a blanket in a park setting
Throw off the chains of your prude American or British or whatever upbringing and be not afraid to drink wine — yes, white wine! — at a picnic with all of your male friends. Dudes do it all the time. It’s fine! No one thinks you’re gay, bro! And if they do, it’s Europe! I don’t know, maybe you should kiss that guy! I don’t care! Or maybe I do! Maybe I do care! But in a good way!
5) Everyone there dresses better than you
You thought you had style, or that you knew how to wrap a scarf around your neck, but you were wrong, and you don’t. Sorry, but you’re a peasant, and everyone knows just by looking at you.
6) You can’t wear a burqa
Didn’t think I was gonna go there, did ya?
7) You can’t hang out with Emmanuel Macron
Does it seem like I’m just padding out this list? Yeah? Send me a picture of you hanging out with French President Emmanuel Macron. Until then, this one stays.
8) Don’t go looking for Jim Morrison’s grave
He’s not actually buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery. He lives on the moon with Tupac.
9) It costs extra to take your espresso away from the counter
I’m dead fucking serious. Don’t order an espresso to sip at the espresso counter, and then when you see an open table, take your little-ass cup over to the table and sit there like it’s no big deal. That’s an extra half euro, or maybe a euro, and it will also cost you 1,000 Euro Cool Points, which can never be recouped.
10) It’s pronounced “Notre Dame,” “Seine,” “Montmartre” and “Saint Martin”
I don’t want to have to tell you this again because it’s embarrassing when you say it wrong and I’m not going to spend my whole vacation correcting you.
11) If you fall in love there, it’s all a sham
Love is dead. And just because the light falls on the eaves a certain way, and the streets pulse with the sounds of a romantic mustard oozing from the lips of beautiful people, and the rivers ripple beneath your feet as you head to the middle of the bridge to affix a lock with your name and the name of some girl you met on Spring Break to the twisted metal for all eternity or until they are removed by sanitation, doesn’t mean you’re somehow exempt.
12) There’s dog poop everywhere
But it’s fine. They wash the streets every day, because French people are ridiculous. Just watch your step in the afternoon, or maybe it’s the morning, I don’t remember.
13) It’s just a place
France may hold some deep meaning for you because you like Hemingway or Chanel, but as it turns out, more than 10 million people live in the city and its surrounding suburbs, and they could give a shit about your little fantasies. They have places to go and people to see. So stop trying to figure out how I screwed up when I went to Paris and go eat the liver of a duck that’s been force-fed corn like a good little tourist, okay?
I didn’t need to know anything different before I went there, actually. I fucked up a lot and that’s what travel is: fucking up and making the most of it. If you don’t have a bad meal, pay too much for a shirt, get stranded on the side of the road, offend a local, or fall asleep face down under a bridge at some point on your trip, you’re doing it wrong.
Hope this helps!