Back in the summer of 2006, I traveled to France with my sister, Michelle, and my father, Eric. This trip changed the way that I viewed different cultures. I was able to speak a little French when I was there because I had one year of French class under my belt.
My family stayed in a quaint hotel in Paris near the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs d’Elysee, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The lifestyle in Paris is very different from the lifestyle here in America, and actually going there helped me to realize it on a very personal level. While I was there, I decided that I would get the most out of my trip by trying to live the lifestyle of a typical Parisian, with a little meandering around the city and enjoying everything it has to offer.
Even the eating habits are different in France than they are here. We would eat a light breakfast early in the morning, usually consisting of the best fresh-baked goodies from a corner boulangerie, such as croissants au chocolat (chocolate croissants) or baguettes with butter and jam, and served with a bowl of creamy cafe au lait or chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). Lunch, generally taken around 2:00 p.m., is the biggest meal of the day for people who live in France.
My favorite lunchtime meals were served in outdoor cafes in the Latin Quarter across from the Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cite. Pomme frites (French fries) and Croque Monsieurs (grilled sandwiches) are favorite lunch dishes of Parisians and Americans alike. A light dinner, often served around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., could last about two hours as we would enjoy delicacies of fine rich French foods served with loads of delectable desserts the French chefs are famous for.
When visiting Paris, the cuisine alone is an experience to be savored and one that, once you get to enjoy it, will be remembered forever as it is really ‘a moveable feast.’ My family and I visited many interesting places in and around Paris, the most famous one being the esteemed Eiffel Tower. This popular landmark is one of the coolest things I have ever seen with my own eyes. The steel structure is impressive, and visitors can either walk up the stairs to the first landing level or take the elevator.
I recommend taking the elevator, especially up to the top where the view of the city is impressive. You can see Montmartre, the artistic area of the city where the Sacre Coeur Basilica (Sacred Heart Church) stands on top of the hill. Notre Dame’s beautiful architecture is located along the Seine River.
The famous Louvre museum has so much artwork in it that you could spend days there and not get to see it all. The ‘City of Love,’ as it is often called, has so many to cultural attractions to see that is never gets boring. One common misconception and stereotype is that people of France are all very snooty and dislike Americans.
From my personal experience, this attitude is definitely not true. Everyone that I met was very willing to help, especially when I was struggling to speak their language. Aside from the obvious differences, like the language barrier (because many people didn’t speak English or speak it well enough for me to understand), I found that there were other subtle, but apparent differences between Parisian society and American society.
Many Parisians seem to spend time gathering in cafes, socializing for hours in the afternoons, eating lunches outside in parks, and just taking time to enjoy the city, the view and each other’s company. Everyone here in the U.S. always seems to be in a hurry, rushing from one activity to another, and spending more time emailing and texting rather than spending personal time together.
Going to Paris was a life-changing experience for me because it gave me valuable experience in understanding a different culture, one that was remarkably different than my own. Many people who live here seem to be submersed in American culture and our own way of life; so much so that they often do not accept other countries’ cultures and lifestyles.
If the opportunity is available, I suggest that everyone take a trip to Paris and experience French culture, from the incredible cuisine and the romantic sound of the language, to the awesome attractions and the relaxed lifestyle. It has changed me forever.
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