Five signs you’re becoming Parisian
If you have been following my (mis)adventures, you will know that I am still far from being Parisian. But when (IF!) the day ever comes, I will know based on the following five signs:
1. You don’t make any effort with your hair - yet it somehow looks even better than if you had
I don’t know how long it takes Parisian women to make themselves look as if they only spent five minutes getting ready. The Parisian style is totally “effortless”: bed hair, makeup that looks like you’re wearing no make up, bras that look like you’re wearing no bra (OK, in this instance I think the majority of Parisian women are simply not wearing a bra).
I like to imagine that Parisian women are secretly spending hours in front of the mirror to give this illusion, however I suspect they really did just wake up with their hair looking like that.
You would think this sort of minimalism would be liberating, but it’s actually quite depressing. These women are purportedly spending zero effort on their appearance and yet they still walk around the city looking a million bucks (approximately €892.000 based on today’s exchange rate). Meanwhile, no matter how little / much effort I invest in front of the mirror (I have tried both approaches) I still wind up looking about as Parisian as Donald Trump.
2. You know exactly when to bring your foldable seat down in metro
In the Parisian metro, there are seats on either side of the doorway which are fold up when the train gets crowded. When this occurs, the people sitting in these seats are supposed to stand up in order to transform the space into standing room. Only problem is, there is no indication as to what exactly constitutes “crowded”. Parisians seem to be born with an innate understanding of exactly when this state has been reached. As in, they don’t even look up from their newspapers, they just casually rise from sitting to standing position as if they were on an automatic setting.
I always get it wrong. Either I’m overly zealous in standing up, only to notice that the rest of the Parisians are still sitting, reading their papers (there is nothing more shameful than standing up prematurely, next to that smug and relaxed person that is still sitting down comme si de ne rien était — it’s kind of like trying to start a slow clap and none joins in) or else I take too long and end up looking like an ignorant asshole. Clearly not Parisian.
3. You have political arguments “en terrace”
The other day, I was sitting at my local cafe doing some work on my laptop when I was interrupted by a couple having an argument in a very heated manner. The woman was flailing her arms about theatrically, and seemed on the point of throwing the jug of water over the man.
What had he done, I wondered? Had he cheated on his wife? Had he killed her mother? Did he buy the wrong wine to pair with their reblochon cheese? It turned out to be none of the above. In fact, the gross error committed by the man was to have had the gall to vote for Mélanchon in the French presidential elections. (I mean, she does have a point, did you see that hologram stunt? If my boyfriend voted for him I would probably want to tip water over him too).
This scene scored incredibly high on the “Parisian” richter scale for two reasons. Not only was this couple having a domestic in public on the terrace of a cafe (where you are generally separated from the next table by approximated 0.8 millimetres), but the topic of the conversation was politics. It really was an exceptional execution.
4. Your entire wardrobe smells like cigarette smoke
Everyone in Paris smokes. They do this in order to stay thin, and to have an excuse to surreptitiously disappear when you are talking to them in bars (Parisians have literalised the concept of the smoke bomb). I’m pretty sure I once saw a poodle smoking, but it could just have been the effect of second hand smoke.
I don’t smoke, and yet my entire wardrobe still smells like cigarettes. This is because I live in Paris; because I enter public spaces; and because I interact with Parisians (sometimes I even let them into my house). You’ve hit next-level Parisian when you realise that your entire wardrobe smells of cigarettes and you actually like it. I wonder if they sell fabric softener in Marlboro Gold?
5. You don’t eat before 10pm at night
Most people are aware that Parisians do not snack between meals (that is what smoking is for..). But did you know that Parisians also like to wait until it’s nearly time to go to bed before eating? Apparently it’s great for digestion.
I have learned the hard way that if you get invited to a Parisian’s place for dinner, chances are you will not be eating until after midnight. Personally I think it is part of a strategy to minimise daily calorie consumption.
But don’t worry, you are perfectly entitled to start drinking wine from the moment you walk in the door, so really the whole situation is just like eating a kebab on the way home from a night out. Except that the food is generally better, and you don’t see rats running around in the kitchen.
In any case, you know you’ve made it in Paris when it gets to 9pm and you’re not hungry.
So if there is one thing I have proved in this post is that I am still a (VERY) long way off from calling myself Parisian. How about you? Are you exhibiting signs?