Travel Travel Tips

Things I wish I knew before coming to Paris

Administration sucks

Before coming here I thought it would be easy to set up a bank account. Boy, was I wrong. I wanted open one during my first week in Paris, and because I had all my documents in PDF and no printer in my flat, I thought it would be easier registering with an online agency at BNP Paribas. BIG MISTAKE. Turned out that I needed to wait almost two months to receive my bank card, because it took forever. Registering with an online agency meant I couldn’t see the advisers in person, so it was more difficult to get things done. The team was very badly organized. The people managing my account even went on holiday at some point. So there I was panicking, and slowly running out of money. During August I was going back and forth on the phone shouting at random bank advisers in French, desperately asking them to send my card to me.

When I finally received it after 8 weeks of waiting, I received a letter telling me to pick it up at one of their bank branches. So I went, and there was nothing there. Apparently they had made a ‘mistake’ on the letter. After a few more days, they sent another slip to my address so I can pick up my bank card at the post office. Since they put two addresses I went to the first one without any luck, and they told me that my card was at the second address. So I waited two more days until it opened and finally got my card.

So I am telling you this: never go to BNP Paribas to open a bank account. Neither with an online agency. That said, you should know that any administrative task in this country is painfully slow. And it’s apparently worse at universities and schools.

Not all Parisians are horrible

People have always told me that Parisians are really rude. But I’ve found that this isn’t really true. I’ve met the nicest people here, so it’s just a stereotype. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rude people here, but tbh douchebags are everywhere, not just in Paris. If I were you I would get rid of that stereotype that’s circling in your head right now and carry on reading.

Always dress down

In terms of going on a night out, Parisians dress really casually compared to everyone else. Ditch the lashes, the Kim K contouring palette and your favorite Misguided dress because that’s just not the norm here. You’ll spot the Parisians if you see them rocking denim jeans and a T-shirt like nobody’s business. So to avoid getting noticed as the stereotypical foreigner, opt for casual clothing (but still chic) and a natural look.

Shop at outdoor markets rather than at chain stores

Franprix is the most expensive chain store in Paris, and probably the most convenient. That’s why many people go there. But for me, outdoor markets and small fruit and veg stores are a lot cheaper, and you can buy tons more there than going to a Franprix, where I would spend 20 euros for just 5 ingredients!! And also, always check opening and closing times for shops because you don’t want to travel all the way there to find out it’s closed.

Say ‘Bonjour’ a lot

Don’t be surprised if the shopkeeper is giving you the death stare, or if the waiter doesn’t want to serve you, because in Paris it’s the norm to say bonjour to people you come in contact with. Whether you cross someone in a lift, a restroom at work, at the supermarket or at a restaurant, always acknowledge them with bonjour or bonsoir depending on the time of the day and bonne journée before you go, because it is considered as extremely rude if you don’t.

Research your area

It will be good to do some research of the district where you’ll be living, because you never know if the most popular areas in Paris are right around the corner. Also, find the cheapest places to shop for food and the nearest pharmacies to get your daily essentials. It might be worth researching what’s near you, because I spent hours wandering around not knowing where to go, and it probably looked really embarrassing. If you find a favorite place close to where you live, it means that on the weekend you are more likely to get out of your flat instead of locking yourself at home in an amazing city like Paris.

The Metro can be terrifying

Many people would agree with me on this, but there are so many weird people on the metro. Especially when the station is empty, it can be quite unsettling going alone. The metro normally closes on the weekdays at 12.30am and on weekends at 2.15am. Other times on the train it’s either too crowded, too hot or it smells, or there’s always someone pushing you and wants to take more space. And don’t throw out your ticket after going on the train as you risk the chances to be confronted by an RATP guard who will fine you for 30 euros, or 50 if you’re unlucky.

Go local

We all know that students don’t have a lot of money. If you’re on a budget like me, you can save plenty of money if you know where all the local students like to hang out. This is where you’ll get 3 euros for a pint instead of 10 euros at flashy touristy bars, so it’s worth researching where students tend to go so you can avoid spending an unnecessary amount of money and make French friends, which means they can show you all the cool places in town.

Don’t forget the essentials

And finally, don’t forget the basics: adapters, electronics, cash, insurance card, bank and accommodation documents before you come to Paris because they are actually quite important!

Hope you have found this post useful if you intend on coming to Paris, or if you have already moved in. And good luck to all those of you starting your year abroad soon!

What are your top tips for coming to Paris?

Bisous xx