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Cary in Paris: Do I Look American?

As I navigated the terminals of Charles-de-Gaulle, out of breath, sweating, and trying to transport 150 pounds of luggage, I couldn’t believe I was finally in Paris. I was trying to catch the NYU shuttle that left in 15 minutes. My arms were numb from my heavy carry-ons. The wheel on my cart of luggage was broken. I was asking people in broken French how on earth I could get to terminal 2E?!

I looked American.

I must say ever since that day, I have tried my absolute hardest to blend in. I truly do not want to be that American tourist posing in front of the Eiffel Tower (had to try that at least once though) and speaking to people only in English. Hard as I try, there are still some people here that just KNOW. They are all perfectly nice and helpful but even when I put on my best accent and ask for directions, they respond in English.

For example, my first night here my friends and I went to a restaurant called Café de Flore. It’s a very famous Parisian institution, one that hosted the likes of Hemmingway and Fitzgerald back in the day (Midnight in Paris, anyone?). It is a fairly expensive restaurant, and still being so flustered from my first day struggles (which included asking a random person on the street to use their phone), I could only muster up the courage to order a salade verte. This means green salad in French, and my friend ordered one as well. The waiter gave us a bit of a strange look, asking if we wanted anything with that. A bit confused, and still flustered, we said no, no that’s fine. A green salad should be a nice, healthy dinner right? Well, upon the arrival of an 8 Euro bowl of lettuce with oil and vinegar on it, I learned my lesson.

It’s experiences like these that I love. Not knowing the culture and customs can be frustrating at times, but it’s the best way to learn. Although I still giggle when ordering my meals or a bottle of wine, struggling to pronounce a proper French “R,” I feel like I am starting to get the hang out it.
Paris is an amazing city, so full of history and life. The food isn’t too shabby either, right? Let’s talk 2 crepes in the first day and I can’t even count how many croissants and quiches in the past two weeks. Woops.

It’s not just the food, though. The learning process has been so much fun. Like the fact that I am not a city girl or walker considering my feet were swollen and blistered for the entire first week. Or that the metro closes at 1:30 a.m. and waiting till it re-opens at 5:30 a.m. is not a pleasant experience. Or that you can’t hail down a cab in the street with much success (my friend hailed down a police car while trying). All of these experiences are what make me love Paris. Getting lost in a different arrondissement every day is great fun. And did I mention that I walk by the Eiffel Tower on the way to school every day?

Not a shabby start to the semester. All I can say for now is Paris, je t’aime.

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