While we are sad to be leaving, and desperately want to return as soon as we can, there are things that won’t be missed upon our return to Canada. While they may sound fairly serious, after 6 months, most of them just become part of Parisian life and you hardly notice them anymore… Here are the 10 things we won’t miss, in no particular order once again…
1. Pee and Poo – I won’t miss the smell of pee in the morning. Most streets reek of it first thing in the morning, and it’s not unheard of to see men peeing on the sides of buildings in broad daylight. Dog poo on the other hand turns Parisian sidewalks into a veritable minefield.
2. Pardon – In Paris, the word Pardon seems to absolve you of any and all wrong doings you are about to perform. I believe it’s actually in their constitution that as long as you say this two syllable word before the offence, you should be free from any penalties… Pardon is generally you’re 1 second warning on the metro that you are about to be either rammed or forcefully moved out of the way, although you get it in all aspects of daily life.
3. The Metro – While we loved the ability to travel all over town on the metro for a very reasonable price (half what you would pay in Calgary), to say it’s not stroller friendly would be like saying Saskatchewan sort of likes their football team. Not only are the gates too narrow, escalators are rare, elevators almost non-existant, and when you do find one, there’s usually a few stairs in order to get to them.
4. Random Store Hours – In Paris, if a store says it’s hours are 10 – 3pm, this means that the store will likely be open sometime AFTER 10, but definitely not before, and a good chance not at all, but you’ll have to come by to find out. The 3pm means that after that time the store will definitely be closed, and there’s an awfully good chance that it will do so much early than that time. If it’s August, it’s likely not open at all as they’ve all gone on holidays. Then of course there’s the “Fermeture Exceptionel”. This means they are closed for “exceptional” reasons, these reasons seem to range from no employees showing up, to them running out of change.
5. Homelessness and Poverty – On a serious note, there seems to be an awful lot of poverty and homelessness. More so than Canada and even some of the other EU countries we visited. What I found most alarming was that they are generally asking for food, making me wonder what types of foodbanks are operated in the city. Also different from Canada is that you often see children begging as well.
6. Service – I know this is a bit of a stereotype, but stereotypes generally exist for a reason. To say service is lacking in France is a gross understatement. Store staff are generally uninterested in helping you. They only do what their job description tells you. This is why in the metro the ticket seller couldn’t care less if you jump over the gate, that’s not his job. The problem is that there are so many people and so many stores, they don’t really need to work very hard for your business. A great example is today at the grocery store the cashier spent the entire time talking to her friends on her cell phone.
7. Pushiness – When you come to Paris, prepare to be pushed. Whether it’s on the metro or in line at the grocery store, people like get close and push. So much so that sometimes you wonder whether you should be paying for the contact they are giving you…
8. French Comprehension – This really came to realization last week in Berlin. I have a very limited understanding of German. I can order a coffee and say a few words, but I wouldn’t last long without a dictionary. Yet while in Berlin, no matter what German word I said, and no matter how badly I put a sentence together, I was always understood, so much so that often they would prattle on back to me in German and I wouldn’t have a clue what was being said. Now, contrast this to Paris, where I can speak french thanks to my 13 years of french immersion, and can say a sentence or even a word, and say it 99.9% correctly, and a Parisian will look at you like you are speaking Swahili. They’ll say pardon, and you’ll repeat, and again and again, and eventually they will repeat the word back to you preempted by an “OOOOHhhhhh!” and suddenly you are understood. Why? Who knows but it certainly gets annoying fast.
9. Sidewalks – Our first stroller met it’s untimely end mainly because we left it in Reading at a wedding, but the truth is after 3 months of cobble stone sidewalks, it was hardly useable anymore. All the rubber had worn off the wheels and each walk we went on we wondered if it would make it home. We thought it was related to design, but the replacement stroller has developed the same issues and it’s all due to the cobblestones. While our Chariot would have fared much better with it’s inflatable tires, it certainly wouldn’t have fit on the narrow sidewalks.
10. Apartment Stairs – While it was a great way to work off the extra calories from all the bakery treats, we certainly didn’t enjoy returning from walks only to face 7 flights of stairs to return to our first apartment. Our second apartment was significantly better at only 4, however being located in hilly Montmartre more than evened this benefit out.