How to Become Parisian

Hi everyone! I hope you’re not expecting an in-depth French beauty inspiration article because that is not what this post is about. I mentioned in a previous article that I turned myself into a Parisian to avoid being scammed. I also made this my goal because I wanted to fit in, to not look like a tourist and mostly to feel at home…and, friends, I sure did!

Here are some tips on how to swiftly turn yourself into a Parisian:

  1. Dress the Part: You may be thinking. Hm, I thought you said this wasn’t going to be a beauty/fashion article. This will be quick though, I promise! I was in Paris during one of the biggest canicules (heat waves) in Parisian history. It was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit/37 Celsius and Parisians don’t like AC because they think that it’ll give you a cold. It was HOT HOT HOT all the time. Therefore, dressing the part felt like an incredibly challenging task. I was still up for the challenge though. Instead of shorts, I opted for skirts, dresses, and nice breeze blouses. I always carried my cardigan around, specially when I had to do research at the library/the archives. It makes a good impression to not have bare arms. The French don’t usually wear flip flops or shorts, but that doesn’t mean you should dress up either. Opt for casual looks and don’t overdo it like the 897128309218 American influencers I saw every day.
  2. Make (it) UP too: Alright, alright. I need to talk about beauty a little bit. Wear a bare face or keep it light. Do NOT contour your face in Paris. I already mentioned that it was incredibly hot. Imagine if I had been sweating off pounds of foundation.  I only wore a couple of touches of concealer (because the dark circles under my eyes will ALWAYS be my biggest insecurity), some mascara and some lip balm. C’est tout ! In addition to that, make sure you don’t style your hair too much. Remember to keep it simple! 😉
  3. Learn the language: If you want to become an actual Parisian, you need to learn actual French! haha! I know that it’s easier said than done, but a little French goes a long way. The Frenchies appreciate it a lot and if you work on getting rid of your accent, they’ll love you even more. Order in French, ask for directions in French, THINK in French. I promise you that it’ll be appreciated.
  4. Learn the customs: I remember walking into a store with one of my American pals and having the owner give us a stern look until he said, “Vous êtes Américaines, n’est-ce pas ?” He hated us after that. It was the ONE time I forgot to say Bonjour and it bit me in the butt. When you walk into a shop or a resto, say “Bonjour”. Don’t forget your manners! Say Merci, S’il vous plaît, Excusez-moi, etc. Americans claim that French people are rude, but actually a lot of Americans don’t make the effort to learn the customs and use them on a daily basis in France. Be polite!
  5. Order like a Parisian: As Americans, we’re used to asking a lot of questions about the dishes on the menu or asking for a lot of changes (no pickle, no mustard, extra mayo). The Frenchies do not do that (especially if you don’t bother to (a)say it in French and (b) say it politely). The French have a specific menu that they carefully crafted and they expect you to order from that. Imagine if you had 50 different questions about a jambon beurre (ham and butter sandwich) at the boulangerie. I think the owner would kick you out. Remember to order like a Parisian: confident, polite, and sans questions!
  6. Memorize your route: I had people (mostly Non-Parisians) stop me on the streets to ask me for directions to the métro or to a specific street. I always gave them my best answer in French and if I didn’t know I would say, “C’est pas mon quartier” (It’s not my neighborhood) and I would keep walking. It always made me feel so excited as if I had fooled them somehow.
  7. Take the métro: You’re just going to have to do it. Ubers are SO American. Unless you’re going to and from the airport, I can’t see how an Uber can take you somewhere faster than the métro will. Memorize your line and make a routine out of it. It’ll be great!

These are all of my suggestions for “becoming a Parisian”. They all worked really well for me and I was only mistaken for a non-Parisian on one-on-one situations where I could no longer mask my American/Puerto Rican accent. Don’t get me wrong. This worked for a brown girl like me because Paris is so racially-diverse. That being said, Parisians still have a lot of biases about People of Color and they especially do not know what to make of Latinxs. At picnics, friends of friends would ask me if I was Asian or Moroccan because I didn’t look “American” . My advice is merely a series of options to portray a casual French vibe without getting carried away with a myriad of striped shirts, berets and baguettes.

Courage !

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Here’s a little outfit that I wore a lot: a simple dress. I took advantage of les soldes (yearly sales) and bought this one at Vicxite A. in the Montmartre area.

Purse: Mango. Ballet Flats: Michael Kors. Sunglasses: Rayban.

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Traveling Solo in Paris

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As some of you may know, I spent Summer 2018 in Paris, France. It was a true dream come true, but it also came with a lot of worries (mostly from my mom). I made some ground rules, I followed my gut as best as I could, and I had the most spectacular time. Here are some tips on how to travel solo as a woman in Paris:

  1. Give yourself a Curfew: It may sound absurd, but trust me, it’s a great idea! I turned myself into Cinderella and made a point to be home by midnight every single night. Now, you may be thinking, “It is not that hard to do that”, but, my friends, Frenchies love to go hard. They love hopping from bar to bar until the crack of dawn sometimes. I was also in Paris during their big World Cup win, so yeah…. it was pretty hard, but I’m glad I stuck to my curfew. I felt safer and happier.
  2. Location, location, location: Make sure you find a safe area to live in! While Paris is mostly safe, I knew I didn’t want to live right next to the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe (mostly because of pickpockets, but I’ll get to that). I lived in the 18e arrondissement and it was AMAZING. Sure, it was still a little loud, but it was incredibly safe. It took me a l o n g time to find a nice apartment in the right location with the right roommates, but it was worth it! Do you research and it’ll pay off. Also, if you have any questions, just send me an email!
  3. Turn yourself into a Parisian: When I came back from Paris, a lot of people asked me if it had been difficult to live there and if I had had any problems concerning my race. My response? Not really! There were SO many people who assumed that I was just a Parisian girl minding my own business. I had at least ten people ask me for directions and they all faithfully trusted me. This had been my NUMBER ONE mission, which I know realize sounds funny. After having lived in a mostly-white Midwestern city as a “racially-ambiguous” American girl, I knew wanted to blend in….and I accomplished just that! Paris is such an amazing metropolitan city with so many racially diverse groups. I honestly felt at home. I’ll share a whole article as to how I managed to “become a Parisian”.
  4. IGNORE everyone: Guys, I wish I could say that it’s common sense to ignore strangers and pickpockets, but I saw SO many people who just didn’t seem to have any ! I lived quite close to Montmartre and Sacre Cœur and I cannot begin to tell you of how many people I saw getting scammed. The number one scam in touristy sites is the whole “Can you sign this petition?” thing. They butter you up until you end up giving them your signature, your cash and sometimes your credit card number. If a stranger approaches you, just ignore them! My number one trick is the following: sometimes the scammers would ask me “Do you know English? or Vous parlez français ?” to which I would respond, “Ah, mais non. Pas du tout” OR “Oh gosh, not at all” and keep walking. Sure, I’m lucky enough to be a polyglot and I would use any iteration of that in any language I know until they would leave me alone. Make sure to also avoid street sellers. They end up putting bracelets around your wrist and then demand payment. Just ignore them and you’ll be fine!
  5. Plan your Routes: I would spend every morning mapping out my route for my after-work plans. It worked perfectly. I knew exactly where I was going. I was confident and I succeeded. I didn’t get easily lost and I felt safe and comforted because I knew what was what and where I was going.
  6. Big Crowds?: So, I already mentioned that I was in France for the World Cup (Allez les Bleues !), but did I mention that I was also there during the Tour de France? 14 juillet? Semi-finals? Finals? Les vacances? Yes, I was in France during pivotal times of the year (with the exception of the RATP grèves -strikes- thank GOD). However, I tried to not let this get in the way of my safety. France is actually pretty organized when it comes to huge events. I planned to meet up with a new friend or two before going to watch the finals or the fireworks by the Eiffel Tower. I felt nice to have a buddy even if I had just met them!
  7. But what about Public Transport? Great question! Public transportation is the best way to move in Paris. I used it every single day. When you’re taking the métro, you need to make sure you have all of your bags as close to you as possible. If you’re wearing a jacket, put your hands inside it. Do not give anyone a chance to steal your money because they will–especially if you’re on an incredibly full wagon.

Et voilà ! These are my tips for safety success in Paris. I do have to briefly mention that I used airbnb to find an apartment and roommates. It was the safest way for me to find an apartment and make a payment without it being a scam. I read up on tons of reviews and I talked to my roommate/AirBnb host multiple times before actually booking the trip. He was fantastic with me and I trusted him completely.

All of these tips, however, don’t matter if you don’t trust yourself. Trust your gut!!! I know it sounds absurd, but confidence was what helped me ignore scammers, and take the métro sans problème