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11 Dilemmas Only Parisians Understand

by Kate Robinson Aug 25, 2015

1. Renting an apartment intramuros or in the proche banlieue.

We, Parisians have an annoying habit of starting a conversation with two questions: what do you do and where do you live? We seem to think this will give us all the insight necessary into understanding who you are. The geographical location of your apartment will tell us immediately if you “really” live in Paris, or if you’ll be leaving the party early to get the last RER home. An apartment within the figurative walls of Paris puts you at the heart of the action, while your banlieue-dwelling friends have to contend with longer commutes to work and, heaven-forbid, a dearth of speciality coffee shops in the quartier. Then again, life is cheaper on the other side of the périphérique and some say the grass–because there actually is some over there — might just be greener.

2. Getting up early on the first Sunday of the month.

Faire la grasse mat’ or take advantage of the one day a month when entrance to the city’s major museums is free: quel dilemme!

3. Deciding whether to take the metro or walk.

If there are only two or three metro stops between you and your destination, you might be better off walking. If you’re headed to one of those metro-deserts in the 12th, you’ll probably have to walk anyway. On days when you have a lot of extra time and don’t mind being late, you might even opt for the bus.

4. Deciding whether to rent or to buy a one-bedroom apartment.

Ha, just kidding! No one can afford to buy an apartment that big in Paris.

5. Determining if you should take vacation in July or August.

Most French employees are expected, to a more or less strict degree, to take a minimum of two consecutive weeks of their five weeks’ annual vacation in July or August. The question is when to leave? Flights and lodging tend to be higher in the peak season between July 15th and August 15th, so those who can, ditch the city in the last half of August. But then they miss out on the one time of the year when the streets are quiet, the bars aren’t bone-crushingly packed and there’s room on the terraces–well, on those that haven’t shuttered their doors for a month-long repose.

6. Taking a half day of RTT to sort out the mess with your impôts.

In the Kafka-esque world of the French administration it usually pays to do things in person. A phone call leaves no trace — it may as well have never happened. You’re much better off addressing things face to face. Make sure you leave with signed and dated proof of your visit.

7. Going for a run by the canal or in the park.

With the rise in popularity of running in Paris, Lycra pants and fluorescent trainers have found a way to be fashionable. Le jogging du dimanche has become a Parisian tradition and each runner has his or her preferred terrain: there’s the Monceau crowd who go round and round in a flat, dusty circle, huffing and puffing as picnicking families look on; fans of the Canal Saint Martin work up an appetite for brunch on rue des Vinaigriers while taking in the water view; and the most dedicated athletes go for altitude at Buttes Chaumont or Parc de Montsouris, the only place to find serious hills in Paris, unless you want to stairstep up to Sacré Coeur.

8. Finding somewhere decent to eat.

Brace yourself: Paris is full of bad food. It’s hard to understand how one of the world’s culinary capitals could be so riddled with low-quality fare, but it is. It pays to do a little research before you go out, to avoid overpaying for soggy fries, canned vegetables, and industrial beer.

9. Telling your visiting friends you won’t be accompanying them to Versailles.

Once really is enough. A trip to Versailles means paying 30€ to take the RER C, stand in long lines, and subject yourself to masses of tourists and general discomfort. You’d rather just treat your visitors to a really good dinner.

10. Finding a garant.

You might be 35, in a well-paying job and have a great credit record, but none of that will help you in your quest to rent an apartment if you haven’t got guarantors — most likely your parents. And good luck if you’re self-employed.

11. Mentally preparing yourself for the bike ride to work.

In some way, Paris is perfect for biking: it’s mostly flat, the number of bicycle lanes is increasing all the time, and the public bike share system means you’ve always got a ride (except for when the three vélib’ stations nearest your apartment are mysteriously empty. Every day. For a month). In other ways, Paris is a living hell even for the most conscientious of cyclers. Three words in order of their fury-inducing capacity: taxis, scooters, and buses.

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