Cultural Barriers

Four years ago, I spent a magical summer in Paris, capturing memories in a long-forgotten blog. Every Thursday, I’ll post my favorite entries from that blog. This is reprinted from 7-8-10.


The average French man differs significantly from the average American man. Gone are white-washed jeans and the class of ‘81 sweatshirt or perhaps a Forty in a paper bag and in come cardigans, tight jeans, button-ups, and chain-smoking. But this post is less about men (quel dommage) and more about the (at times profound) cultural differences between the U.S. and France.

1. There is no tipping in restaurants. The tax and the tip are included in the cost of the food. Now, you might say that’s silly, but i’ve had the most painless group dinners since coming here. Gone are the days of being the money bitch and paying extra because your friends don’t understand how tipping works.

2. Life is so laid back here. I wake up around nine each morning and my family is having leisurely breakfast of croissants, cafe au lait, and butter. I’m also pretty sure they don’t leave the house until around 11am. Walking on the streets, I’m used to the New York style of sorta bulldozing your way through the streets. But even the Parisiens here walk slowly. I dont know if it’s the wine, the architecture, or something else, but maybe that’s why people are happy here.

3. Dinner is served at 9pm or later. My class had dinner in a french restaurant at 7:30. We were the only ones there until nine. Dinner is also really light. Salad, a baguette, cheese, and of course : du vin.

4. This is appropriate to do in a park in Paris:


5. Paris is surprisingly non-handicap accessible. Most buildings don’t have elevators and streets are super narrow (in fact on some, i can barely fit into), and they slope upwards of 45 degrees. I feel like there’s not much regard for people with handicaps/disabilities but that also might be the Paris of the past.

6. Coffee is served in tiny cups, strong and dark (like my men). Dunkin Donuts, eat your heart out.

7. The idea that on hot summer nights water pitchers should be iced has not hit the French yet.

8. I see people drinking everywhere during the night, but I’ve only seen one couple stumbling drunk. Kind of the opposite of college.



If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

– Ernest Hemingway



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