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This is Join Us in France Episode 210. Bonjour, I’m Annie and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, its many quirks, its history, its language, and of course, destinations in France you want to learn about because, hopefully, you’ll be visiting soon.
Will You Hate Paris When You Go?
On today’s episode, let’s talk about 6 miscellaneous grievances about Paris from our unhappy unnamed young couple who were visiting Paris for the first time. Plus, one more that’s not a grievance, but more of something you should know. The first part of my remarks on grievances from this person was episode 209 last week where it was all her grievances about food in France.
This couple had heard such good things, they were in love with Paris before they got to Paris, she even majored in French, but alas, Paris was all sorely disappointing and really grating and really hard to take. Her words.
I will make light of a few things, but if you’ve never been to a big city like Paris, let this be a warning to you, you need to know a few things!
There Are Bad Neighborhoods in Paris
After listening to this episode, you might want to listen to Episode 194: Dicey Paris Neighborhoods. This couple chose to stay at République. She insisted that was perfectly fine and asked me to stop saying that was a poor choice.
But I will! Have you been to République?! It’s the pressure valve of Paris. This is where they hold demonstrations of all sorts, where there are lots of homeless people, lots of low-income people, lots of unrest over anything and everything. The République neighborhood goes between grungy and scary and completely drunk depending on the hour. It is never classy.
I know French people who live there and they manage just fine. But it’s not good for visitors, especially young and unworldly ones. It’s all explained in episode 194, just listen to that.
Tour with Annie and Elyse
Join Us in France is brought to you by Patreon supporters and Addicted to France, the small group tour company for people who want to enjoy France to the fullest with a couple of goofy locals (yours truly and Elyse) at their side. We have a Dordogne tour planned for Sept 2019 right now, and you can only buy it until Dec 26, 2018, so check it out on AddictedtoFrance.com.
7 Things You Might Hate About Paris
For this young couple Paris was really a hardship because:
1. No Data
It sucks when you don’t have data on your phone. Especially young people, they are lost without it. Apparently, our lovely young couple had asked their provider about data while in France. They were told they’d get it for free (Really? For free?!) but, alas, it wasn’t the case. They were stuck with a phone with no data. I think there must have been a misunderstanding there along the way. American cell phone providers don’t give you free data while in France. None of them do as far as I know.
No data is bad but it’s not Paris’ fault.
But, Paris to the rescue! In Paris there is free WiFi anywhere you have a public park. And there are fenced public parks all over the city. These parks have opening and closing hours and when the custodian arrives in the morning he/she turns it on, then turns if off at night when the park closes. Why do they turn it off at night? To discourage homeless people from congregating around public parks.
But if you go during daylight hours, sit on a bench, and search for WiFi with your phone, you will find at least one option that’s open for all to use.
Also, presumably your hotel has WiFi? I’ve never had great WiFi at a hotel, but they all have something by now.
This couple stayed at an Air B&B that she said was great. Maybe it didn’t have WiFi? In my book that makes it not so good.
2. “Also it’s just a fact that Paris is filled with smoke, pollution and the smell of pee”
Paris used to be a lot more polluted than it is today, but yes, it’s a big city, it has pollution issues. No worse than any large city in the US, but there’s no denying it, there are bad air days.
Smoke? She means cigarette smoke here. Yes, French people smoke a lot more than Americans. It’s a terrible public health issue. If you can’t stand the smell of smoke, stay away from France for the next 20 years. Nobody in my family smokes, we’re doing our part!
Pee? Yes, France has a problem with some men thinking it’s OK to relieve themselves wherever they feel like it. That used to be a much bigger problem than it is today. You don’t smell pee in Central Paris any more unless you go down into some parts of the metro. North East quadrant of Paris where she was staying with all the homeless people and drunken parties? Yes, smell of pee everywhere.
3. Breaking Big Euro Bills
Someone on the Facebook group (not the same person) asked if it’s going to be a problem using 500€ bills in Paris. They wanted to be proactive, ordered 3000€ in cash, and their US bank gave them 500€ bills. This was not a grievance about Paris at all and this person didn’t blame Paris, had a really good attitude as a matter of fact, but I’m including it here because I didn’t know where else to fit it and it needs to be said.
Cash Is to Pay for Small Purchases
The whole point of carrying cash is to pay for small purchases. Who pays for a small purchase with a 500€ bill?! Maybe your bank thought you’d be buying large amounts of weed on Paris streets and needed that sort of denomination? I’m just kidding, but really? Anything bigger than 50€ is not well received. There are signs everywhere saying we don’t accept 200€ and 500€ bills. I guess you could pay your hotel bill with your 500€ bills. But then, why did you take the risk of carrying cash at all? Hotels take credit cards!
Get Cash at the ATM When You Arrive in Paris
Here’s how I recommend you get cash for Paris: go to an ATM at the airport when you arrive at the airport in Paris. We have ATMs! Some ATMs let you specify the denominations you want. And if you don’t want big bills, withdraw 90€ at a time. You’ll get a 50 and two 20. Bigger than 50€ bills are not convenient for most cash transactions.
Cafés Don’t Want Your Big Bills or Your Bag of Pennies!
And just like in the US, they don’t have to take your big bills and they don’t have to take your bag full of pennies either. As your trip ends, use your euro coins here and there, don’t save them all for the last meal in Paris or you will annoy your waiter!
4. Asking for Change
Back to our young couple who had a bad experience in Paris. She reports dealing with a rude waiter and then asking him to break a 5€ note for her. The rudeness escalated at that point apparently. If you’re having an unpleasant experience with a waiter, why do you ask him to do you a favor and break a 5 for you?
That’s just a lack of common sense. You want to break that 5€ note? Go into a grocery store and buy the cheapest thing there. That’s how I do it both in France and in America.
Waiters are not under any obligation to break bills for you. You can ask, they’ll probably say yes if you had a good rapport, but they may say no if they don’t like you or if they are short on change themselves. They don’t have to take your bag of pennies either! This is no different in America as far as I know.
5. They Rushed Me in Paris!
For number 5 I’ll quote her because it says so much: “when we would go into a bakery they acted like we needed to know what we wanted before we even walked in and acted really annoyed when we didn’t know literally right away. they would just ask the person behind us what they wanted and all these people would be going in front of us where we couldn’t even see what they had and look at it in order to decide”
No, they don’t expect you to know what you want before you go in. That’s a huge exaggeration. But they don’t want you to hold up the line either! Imagine you’re not in Paris, but at a Deli in New York City. It’s lunch-time, there’s a line. Would they serve the next person in line while you make your choice? Yes, of course! Why should it be any different in Paris?
If you live in a place that never has crowds or lines, you’re not used to this. But it’s a reality of big city life in any country. Hurry up or get out of the way!
If you need more time, either be gracious about letting other people go ahead of you, or go into a bakery where there is no line! We have bakeries all over the place in Paris, many with no lines!
6. Toilets and Drinking Water
Paris is not convenient for drinking water or using the toilet. it’s just a fact.
It is true that when you’re traveling you don’t have as much access to bathrooms or drinking fountains as when you’re at home or a work. I will grant you that. But people manage by using the facilities at museums and restaurants. She knew that, she even wrote it, but somehow, that wasn’t enough. You’re young sista, wait until you get to be my age!
“in 10 days of actively site-seeing all over the city i only came across one free toilet and two toilets that you paid for”
I was in Washington DC a couple of years ago and we did the usual museum run, walking all over the city, taking the metro, and guess what? I didn’t run into free toilets at every street corner there either! Come to think of it, the only place you can pee in Washington DC is at restaurants or museums! This comes with the territory when you travel, when you travel anywhere, not just in Paris!
But this is something that people like to complain about in Paris. Not enough bathrooms! So, let me set the record straight: there are 150 sanisettes in Paris. Those are the free self-cleaning toilets. I’ll put a picture in the show notes. I don’t love them, but they get the job done and they are clean. Wet, but clean.
There are also lots public bathrooms where you have to pay a euro or two to use the facility. Do I like to pay to use the bathroom? No! Everybody raise their hand who doesn’t want to clean public bathrooms for free! What? Nobody volunteers to be an unpaid bathroom cleaner? I’m shocked! Then I have something to explain to you: tough it up and pay the euro!
I’ll put a map of all the public bathrooms in Paris in the show notes for this episode (joinusinfrance.com/210). There’s a TON of them! Of course, if you need a bathroom right this minute knowing that there are bathrooms somewhere else won’t help you. But when doing the tourist thing most people know to use the bathroom when they stop for a meal and at museums.
And in Paris there are cafés everywhere. Go to the counter, order a drink, head to the bathroom, go back to the counter, drink, pay, business done in less than 5 minutes.
There’s an App called Toilets in Paris too. It will guide you to the nearest public bathroom. I’ve never used it, but it gets good reviews and it’s been around a long time.
As a rule, in France, you will find public bathrooms at shopping centers, anywhere they serve food, tourist attractions, and train stations. I know, it’s annoying, you don’t know exactly where they are, it puts you outside of your comfort zone, but such is the life of a traveler.
Let’s move on to water. Where do you find water to drink in Paris? Again, I’ll provide a map that I found on the same site as before, it’s called eutouring.com With that map you can see that Paris is littered with drinking fountains! Wallace Fountains even make it super stylish to fill up your water bottle!
But if that’s not enough you can also fill up your water at any bathroom you use, and restaurant or café.
What you CANNOT do is ask waiters to fill your water bottle for you. The water in the bathroom is just as good as the water in the kitchen, it’s the same water, coming from the same pipes, so you fill it up there. No, you don’t need to buy a new water bottle every hour. Just save the one you have and fill it up again in any bathroom. Or bring a proper water bottle.
7. Boxes for Food Leftovers in Paris
This person explains that 5 out 6 places where she asked to take her leftovers they gave her a to-go box, no problem. Those were fast food type places that sell to go, so they have the boxes. One place, a touristy restaurant, didn’t have to-go boxes, so she was upset about that.
In general, sit-down restaurants in France don’t stock to-go boxes. Why would they? They are a sit-down restaurant, not a kebab place! Also, they don’t serve you portions like the Cheesecake Factory, most people eat the whole thing. So, if they have something for your leftovers, great. If they don’t, maybe consider thinking I’m in France, not in America, not everything has to be the same.
I was going to end on her last paragraph which summarizes all the things she hated about Paris, but it was dripping with judgement and it would force me to say things I’d regret, so I’ll let it go.
Somebody on the group said don’t respond, this is a troll. I don’t think she was a troll, and if she was she certainly didn’t behave like one. She went away never to be heard from again. She didn’t say anything rude to me, which has happened on other occasions and for much less.
This person was certain she knew a lot more about Paris than she really did, that’s never a good thing. This is exactly the kind of person who needs to listen to the podcast! They love France but they don’t know it as well as they think they do.
Just listening will change their expectations and they’ll be prepared to have a good time. Remember, happiness is all about the difference between expectations and reality. Unrealistic expectations make for a terrible vacation!
And, some people are not meant for travel. They should just stay in their home country that has none of these terrible flaws.