Before jetting off to Paris, I spent hours on the internet studying French etiquette and customs so that I could learn them, practice them, and appear as a true Parisian; I was certain that I would impress my host mom. However, that illusion quickly ended after I got a little lost on the metro and called her (during which I used my best French. Who says you need to use subjects and verbs?).
Aside from my frantic SOS call, I figured I still had a chance to show off my skills. But apart from being complimented on my speaking skills after I had calmed down, I’ve come to realize a few things during my first week here: the internet did not completely inform me about French customs and ways of life. And let me tell you, some of them are weird.
1. There are two rooms for the bathroom in France: “les toilettes” (the small room with the toilet) and “la salle de bains” (includes shower and sink). The door to the salle de bains must remain open, but the door to the toilet must be closed. Apparently, the toilet is vulgar. I quickly learned to not make bathroom jokes.
2. The French shower? Yeah, not a shower. It’s a bathtub in which you sit down and use a moveable shower nozzle to wash yourself. I’d say it’s comparable to a sink with one of those extendable nozzles to clean dishes, except in this case, you are the dish. My host mom told me to “prendre une douche” (take a shower) but I’m not exactly sure what I did.
3. In the morning, you are supposed to open your windows to air out your bedroom. Otherwise, you will be consumed by toxins. I’m not sure if I believe that, but hey, it makes my 100 degree room a little more bearable.
4. The French don’t seem to really like water. You know how you’re supposed to drink 64 ounces of water a day? How about you try six ounces. The French drink their water out of a big bottle that they generally buy at the beginning of the week. However, my American self really likes to drink more than six ounces of water a day. I may or may not be lying when I say that I eagerly wait for my host mom to go to work in the morning so I can guzzle down tap water without having to explain myself in French.
5. Last but not least, the French are blunt. No, they are not all mean. No, they do not hate Americans. But you don’t hear “sorry” or circumlocutions. You do something that the French don’t understand? They ask you why, and it’s a blunt “why.” So no, do not go to Paris with the idea that the French are mean. But do understand that you will not hear “sorry” every other word like you do in America.
While I’m not all knowing, maybe some of these tips will help you. And maybe you won’t die of toxin poisons because you forgot to open your windows and air you room one morning. Oops.