Bonjour Madames et Messieurs, et bienvenue a mon blog!
My first week has been awesome so far! I’m living with a host family, a couple with two boys ages 7 and 8, in the thirteenth arrondissement. It’s a residential area with very few tourists, but it’s easy to get to touristy areas within a few minutes on the metro. It’s a 25-minute walk away from Reid Hall, Columbia’s “campus” in Paris, where the headquarters of my program and most of my classes are.
I’m very happy with my room and my location! The apartment complex has an interior garden for residents only, which is very rare in Paris.
I haven’t done very much sightseeing so far. The closest thing I’ve done to sightseeing is a tour of the Jewish Quarter with Reid Hall. We saw Jewish shops, restaurants, libraries, and the Jewish history museum. Unrelated to the Jews, we also saw some mini-palaces, or “hotels”, where French aristocrats lived before the Revolution.
This is the courtyard of the Jewish History Museum. The statue represents Alfred Dreyfus and his sword is cut in half to represent him being stripped of his rank during the Affair.
That’s pretty much the extent of the sightseeing I’ve done so far. Otherwise, I’ve been spending my time by having awkward cultural encounters…For instance, today I got a slice of pizza and only after I had devoured half of it did I notice that the French people around me were all eating their pizza with a knife and fork. While I was certain I had just revealed myself to be an American slob, I decided to wolf down the rest anyway without the knife and fork and then I made a quick escape. It wasn’t a high-class place–the silverware was plastic, so I used that as my excuse for committing a social faux pas.
Probably the thing that makes such situations so awkward is that they sneak up on you when you least expect them. The other day I went to a pharmacy on my way home to pick up tissues and hair mousse. As it turns out, French pharmacies bear little resemblance to their American counterparts. No CVS or Rite Aid here. They don’t sell tissues, makeup, toothpaste. Forget about all that. They have medicine and a few hair products. But the awkward aspect is that a small shop in France, even a pharmacy, is not considered part if the public domain. That is to say, entering a small shop is socially the same as entering someone’s house. Failing to greet a salesperson in his shop is considered irredeemably rude. And you don’t show up and just browse. You come in and immediately tell the salesperson why you are there. I made the mistake of not saying Bonjour to the saleswoman because she was helping someone else and I didn’t want to interrupt. This resulted in her staring me down and muttering. To make up for my rudeness and because it’s much harder to say you won’t buy anything after the salesperson has gone to the trouble of helping you, I ended up buying mousse for the fairly ridiculous price of 11 euros. Though that’s probably the norm in Paris, where as a general rule everything is small and expensive. C’est la vie.
Here are some cool chocolate sculptures I saw today in a shop