Exchange diaries Paris: Culture shock

Victoria Musial is in Paris on exchange this year. She’ll be sharing her experiences every three weeks as a regular contributor to Lifestyle.

When Netflix recently launched in France, angry French citizens worried that it would Americanize their television and film industries.

Clearly, the French place a strong importance on preserving their culture. So it’s no surprise that I was quite culturally shocked when I arrived in Paris. It seems obvious now but before my arrival, I didn’t believe the people who warned me about the culture shock I was about to experience.

The amount of cultural differences I have experienced is unbelievable.

The culture shock has been hard to get accustomed to. I constantly forget that businesses and stores open late, close early and are rarely open on the weekends. Just about everything is closed on Sundays, including cafes and restaurants.

Another aspect that has been hard to adjust to is the importance of fashion in Paris. The only time Parisians wear sneakers is when they’re going for a run or to the gym. I have yet to see women wearing flip-flops or shorts even when it’s sweltering. Also, you can forget about wearing colourful clothing. Paris is all about neutral colours with bright accent pieces like a bag or scarf.

But not all the cultural differences are bad. In general, the French are more relaxed. It’s not uncommon to see people drinking a café au lait at 10 in the morning or a group of friends sharing a bottle of wine at the park.

In France, there’s no last call and people tend not to arrive at a club until 2 a.m. Being fashionably late is considered being punctual here, which is great for me since I’m constantly running late.

Another perk is the incredible food. There’s a bakery on every corner selling fresh baguettes and delicious croissants. And yes, they sell wine and beer at most convenience or grocery stores, too. I’m slowly getting used to the quirks of French culture, but I didn’t expect it to be this difficult. It makes me more aware of how settled I was in my Canadian ways.

There’s one thing I’ll never get used to. The French don’t eat butter and salt on their popcorn; instead, they top it with sugar. Perhaps it will grow on me, though, just as the culture will.

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