The title of this post is perhaps a bit misleading, as there are certainly countless things that students who study in Paris for the first time should know about. But then again, half of the fun of studying abroad in a foreign place is figuring out all the little quirks and special secrets of the city on your own. However, these are just a few things every student should know before studying abroad in Paris:
1. On Sundays Students Go To Museums.
Ok, well that’s the first Sunday of the month anyways. Why? Because most every state-run museum in the city is free on this day. But even if you aren’t around for the first Sunday of a given month, most museums will give students free or sizable discounts on admission if under the age of 26 and studying for a few months at an E.U. school. It’s safe to say if your institution gave you a student card, you’re getting in for free or darn near close to it!
2. Franglish is more than just what you’re attempting to speak everywhere.
Franglish is a wonderful community that organizes meet-ups at cafés throughout Paris and in other cities in France. The premise is simple: show up at the rendez-vous café, collect your drink voucher, and then engage in an hours’ worth of “speed dating” type language practice. Franglish organizers pair you up with a native French speaker and you talk in French for seven minutes, then English for seven minutes, and before you know it you’re off to the next table meeting someone new! You can’t study in Paris and NOT use the opportunity to improve upon your French language skills, even if you’re not there just to study French. As most any study abroad student and visitor to the city can attest, your life will be made much easier if you can master even a few sentences of basic French. Plus, Franglish will allow you the opportunity to meet some locals and get connected!
3. La formule is usually the way to go when dining out.
While it might at first seem like living in Paris on a student’s budget is but a terrible tease given the gastronomic wonders that abound, eating out on occasion while studying in Paris can actually be quite reasonable. Having lunch out rather than dinner is usually a great way to save a few Euros; however, if you do choose to have an evening out at your neighborhood bistro then make sure to check out what the offered formule is. These fixed menu dinners are a great value, typically offering three courses for a much more reasonable price than if you were to order à la carte.
4. Say bonjour everywhere; except of course at night.
Ok, this one might seem inconsequential, but it actually is a remarkable cultural difference straight-to-the-point American study abroad students will notice when they compare themselves to the polite French. Even in a busy city like Paris, you should always say a polite greeting when entering into a shop or before stopping to ask for directions to the nearby Père Lachaise cemetery. Usually, this is as simple as saying bonjour, but don’t fall into the trap that many Americans do and say this at all hours of the day. It seems to be assumed without mention, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to throw out a curt bonjour instead of bonsoir once the evening hours roll around. There is also the often confused bonne journée and bonne soirée which are actually appropriate parting remarks too.
5. The métro does not stay open all night.
Yes, it is one of the most puzzling things in the City of Lights—the efficient métro shuts down around midnight most nights during the week and only stays open for another hour or so on the weekends. Therefore, make sure you plan how you are going to get back to your residence if hoping for a night out on the town during your time studying in Paris. If you’re feeling really adventurous and are a great navigator, then you can make use of the Noctilien nightbus service—good luck interpreting the line map though!