After leaving the friendly confines of the United States for the first time, I came back with a greater appreciation for the country most of us call home. Traveling to a new country is an experience unlike any other. I decided to report back on my biggest pet peeves about Paris. This is by no means a doctoral level hypothesis, but just a set of observations. Heck, a couple of them are downright obvious, but just bear with me and let me explain.
- French is extremely difficult to understand
- You can't swipe your credit/debit cards
- There are virtually no public restrooms
- Servers take your whole order at once
- Street signs are located on the buildings
1. Was it wrong of me to assume my French class in high school would be enough to prepare me for my trip? Yes, yes it was. I swear French is the hardest language in the world to understand. I couldn't make heads or tails of anything in French, especially restaurant menus. God bless the restaurants who have English menus. There is something very humbling about going to a place where you don't know the language.
2. Elizabeth and I learned you can't swipe your debit/credit cards the hard way. After arriving in Paris on very little sleep, we tried to buy metro tickets from the self-serve kiosks. Declined. Declined again. Declined yet again. I couldn't believe my eyes! What the hell did I have the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard for if it didn't even work? Luckily the information booth was just opening up so I went over to them and tried to communicate my issue. They inserted my card using the EMV chip and VOILA, two metro tickets! The moral of the story, make sure you get your metro tickets while there are workers on the duty, otherwise you're screwed.
3. There aren't public restrooms anywhere. Like most tourists Elizabeth and I were out walking around the city most of the day. It didn't dawn on me until three coffees into the first day that there is nowhere to pee! Its not like the U.S. where you can walk into almost any gas station or store and take a leak. The small cafes won't let you use their restrooms unless you buy something, and some of the restrooms cost money. The parks are the only place that offer free public restrooms, but those are few and far between. So when you're out roaming the streets of Paris, make sure you're extremely dehydrated so you don't have to use the restroom.
4. I found the service in Paris to be a bit odd. Normally in the U.S. you sit down and the server comes over and takes your drink order, then they return to see if you'd like any appetizers or need more time, and then you order your food. In Paris, after you are seated, you won't see your server for roughly five minutes and then they'll show up ready for you to place your whole order all at once. Obviously it took Elizabeth and I a few tries to realize this and I was convinced the service in Paris was just downright bad.
5. When trying to navigate a new city there is no better feeling than walking to a corner, looking up at the signs and figuring out exactly where you are on the map. Well unfortunately, in Paris there are no signs on the corners. All the street signs are on the side of the buildings, thus making it quite difficult to figure out what street you're on.
Obviously there are plenty more differences between the U.S. and Paris, but I found these to be the five that jumped out at me the most. What are some pet peeves you've found while traveling abroad?
Deric "Passenger" Poldberg