The Dos and Don’ts of Paris

Paris itself may always be a good idea, but not all ideas in Paris are good ones! Whether you’re planning on moving to Paris or simply visiting for the weekend, there are certain things you should be aware of in order to fully enjoy your experience. Here are some of our ‘dos and don’ts’ when you’re in the French capital:

Don’t fall into the trap of taking the métro everywhere. Of course, the métro is a wonderful invention that makes everyone’s lives a lot easier, and on a day to day basis it is indispensible. However, this doesn’t stop it being quite an unpleasant place to spend your time, what with the throngs of stressed commuters and confused tourists, and the questionable lingering odours. Do make the most of Paris and stroll through its picturesque streets. This is such a famous activity that it sprouted its own verb ‘flâner’, meaning to wander aimlessly, which is intrinsically tied up with images of Parisian boulevards.

Don’t set your heart on one location when house hunting. Sure, you’ve always imagined yourself in a little Haussmannien flat nestled in Saint-Germain, but depending on your budget and availability the reality might be quite different.  Do be open minded and explore some different areas, for each corner of Paris has its own charms, be it the shabby chic of Belleville or the polished façades of the 16th arrondissement.

Do take advantage of Paris’ café culture, where your espresso buys you the right to linger for as long as you please whilst taking in the scenes around you. After all, there is no better place to people watch than in Paris. But don’t forget your basic politesse with those serving you, a simple bonjour and s’il vous plait goes a long way with the Parisians, who will return the favour and maybe even treat you with a smile!

Do make sure you visit the typical tourist spots; they are famous for a reason, after all. Notre dame is undeniably impressive, and few things compare to the view from the steps of le Sacré Coeur. However, don’t spend absolutely all of your time hanging around Montmartre and the Champs Elysées – Paris has a wealth of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered in its more offbeat neighbourhoods such as the Canal St. Martin.

Don’t buy everything in supermarkets; you’d be insane to miss out on Paris’ many food markets, which, on top of providing delicious fresh produce, are much kinder on your wallet. What’s more, they’re a perfect opportunity to practise your French whilst discovering a little more about French gastronomie by having a chat with your fromager. Le marché des enfants rouges, tucked away in a quiet corner of le marais, comes highly recommended for groceries and street food alike.

Speaking of food, do enjoy being in the culinary capital of the world! From haute cuisine in one of Paris’ many Michelin starred restaurants to a simple yet delicious baguette from the humble boulangerie, you’ll never go hungry in this foodie’s haven.

So now you know how to go about your Parisian adventure! It’s not hard to enjoy yourself in this wonderful city if you keep your wits about you. If you enjoyed reading this, you can find more of the same here, and don’t forget to consult our job offers for bilingual assistants in the Paris area.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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Perhaps simply due to geographical proximity, or maybe age old Franco-British rivalry, Paris and London seem to be intrinsically linked by more than just the cross-channel Eurostar service; a relationship that has captured the imagination of authors from Charles Dickens to George Orwell. So how do these two European capitals measure up to each other nowadays? Is there a better quality of life in the ville des lumières or would you be happier in the big smoke? Here’s our list of reasons why each of these cities is better:

Paris is Better

  • The Food

You simply have to look at the number of 3 Michelin starred restaurants in each city (11 in Paris, 2 in London) to see that, when it comes to food, Paris undoubtedly has the upper hand. This is not only true for high end dining; whereas you’d be hard pressed to walk for 5 minutes in London without coming across a Nando’s or Pizza Express, Paris tends towards small, independent restaurants with a much more personal feel.

  • The Architecture

Paris is, undeniably, breathtaking. Its architectural consistency lends it an unmistakeable elegance such that Parisian buildings could not possibly be imagined anywhere else. That’s not to say that London is ugly! Of course the British capital has some gems of its own, but as a whole it simply cannot compare to Paris.

  • Manageability

Central Paris is conveniently contained within le boulevard périphérique, a ring road that wraps around the city’s 20 bite-sized arrondissements.This set up lends a kind of friendly ‘neighbourhood’ feel; although you live in Paris, first and foremost you live in an arrondissement, where you know your local boulangerie and fromagerie (Did we mention that bread and cheese are excellent in Paris?). This can feel a lot easier to handle than the sprawl of London, where you can spend an age moving from one place to the next.

  • Living Costs

With housing costs coming in at 27% cheaper in the French capital and transport a whopping 50% cheaper, for your wallet the choice is a no brainer. Paris is without a doubt the more affordable of the two cities.

  • ‘Je ne sais quoi’

Paris has a certain something that is difficult to articulate, a product of its early 20th Century glory days. The films would have you believe that the whole city is bathed in a warm toned Instagram filter, and for many this romantic view of Paris does ring true. Then again, for some this ideal can lead to disappointment with the reality (See ‘Paris syndrome’, a comical but altogether real condition that befalls poor Japanese tourists whose experience of Paris does not live up to their expectations)

 

London is Better

  • Culture

Paris has an excellent cultural offering, with world class museums like the Louvre giving it a real edge in this domain. However, it’s hard to match up to museums like The British Museum and the Tate, which are, by the way, all free.

  • Size

Although Paris being manageable was stated as an advantage, depending on your perspective you can view London’s immensity as a good thing. You’re sure to find something to do in one of London’s many boroughs at any time, whatever your interests, provided you’re willing to spend some time on the tube of course!

  • Job Opportunities

London is certainly the place to be in Europe when it comes to work, especially in the finance sector. Add this to the higher average salary in London and you might actually be able to afford to live there!

  • Internationality

London has a significantly larger international population than Paris, and with this comes all kinds of benefits, from interesting foods to try (head down to Brick Lane’s Sunday food market and you’ll understand) to diverse cultural events. Furthermore, if so many people are flocking to a place, this suggests it’s an attractive place to live, which brings us on to the final point…

  • French Migration

In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy gave a campaign speech, somewhat unexpectedly, in London. He praised its vitality and labelled it ‘one of the biggest French cities’, and he wasn’t wrong – an estimated 200,000 French people are now living in London. This gives us some food for thought, isn’t it rather telling that French people are choosing to cross the channel to their neighbouring capital rather than staying in their own?

Overall, it’s near impossible to definitively state that one of these great cities is better than the other, as it depends so much on what you’re looking for. When it comes to beauty and ambiance, Paris is a clear winner, whereas London has the edge in diversity and excitement. Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below, and if you liked this post you can check out the other entries here, or if you’re looking for work you can consult our job offers for bilingual assistants here.

The Interview… Where First Impressions Are Everything

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33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether a candidate will get the job[1].  With this limited time frame to make a lasting impression it is essential that you get it right! Most of the key ingredients are obvious however there are some essential “Dos” and “Don’ts” that are often forgotten by candidates:-

 

Physical Appearance

Albeit obvious, candidates should present themselves as neat, tidy, and well-groomed to give a positive image to the employer. It is always better to overdress than under dress as candidates risk showing they are not taking the interview seriously. Cleavage, short skirts and untucked shirts do not give the professional impression that should be conveyed. Moreover, well-fitted clothes are a must because if a candidate is constantly readjusting their outfit they may seem fidgety.

Small ear piercings are acceptable as long as each ear is not too overcrowded and nose piercings can occasionally look smart on the right person. Any large piercings or other facial piercings should be avoided. All visible tattoos should be covered by clothing, hair or jewellery.

Personal hygiene is fundamental and a trait that a good candidate never lacks. Avoid having greasy hair or any dandruff before the interview. Hair should be tidy and away from the face to appear more open.  Smells such as ‘BO’ or cigarettes will immediately put off any employer as a malodorous employee will be unpleasant to work with. It is crucial to wear clean clothes and avoid smoking before an interview. Perfume and aftershave are always a good idea; just be careful it is not too overpowering.

This also applies to breath. The interviewer does not want to know what you had for lunch. Avoid garlic, onions and strong spices. Brush your teeth beforehand and have a strong breath mint of necessary. That said; do not chew gum in the interview as it looks completely unprofessional.

 

Body Language

Wearing a nice smile is crucial for a good first impression. It tells people that you’re an outgoing and intelligent person worth getting to know and conveys confidence and professionalism. Moreover, maintain eye contact with the interviewer when in conversation. A blank stare is a look people naturally adapt when they are trying to distance themselves, which is what a candidate should avoid.

The all-important handshake is a skill that not everyone has mastered. Make sure the handshake is firm and lasts no more than two shakes and should be accompanied by an introduction or expression of gratitude. If seated, always stand up to shake hands and if prone to sweaty hands, keep a handkerchief in a pocket or bag in order to discreetly wipe them beforehand.

 

Communication

Verbally greeting anyone at an interview is important to show respect and politeness. “Bonjour, Madame” or “Good morning” is sufficient and avoid less formal greetings like “ça va?” or “hi”. The most common way to address someone in France is by saying ‘Madame’ or ‘Monsieur’ and never use ‘Mademoiselle’ in the business world.

Most importantly, in France, it is essential to vousvoyer everyone you speak to at an interview. For English speakers this does not come naturally however it is ingrained into French language and culture and is considered extremely rude if the two are confused. Therefore, avoid at all costs referring to anyone as “tu” to maintain the boundaries between personal and professional and avoid offending anyone. 

A candidate’s tone of voice determines 38% of first impressions[2]. Some try to appear confident but overstep the mark with a loud tone of arrogance. On the other hand, a candidate trying to seem respectful and quiet may appear monotone and boring. Talking with a smile changes the tone of voice from monotone to cheery and will always be perceived well.

 

Conclusion

By paying attention to these small details to ensure good presentation, body language and communication skills, you can be sure to put yourself in the best possible light. The key is to play it safe and prepare beforehand, be polite and respectful with a smile to show confidence and gratitude for the opportunity. Remember, you have to make a good first impression to deserve a second.

 

Working in Tandem:Language Exchanges

The time had finally come; I had arrived in Paris to put the years of learning French to the test. However, I had come up against a brick wall: despite the fact I was speaking in French, the response was regularly in English.  So what was I to do? Skimming through all the events on Meetup.com, I discovered language exchange events such as Paris English French Conversation exchange, Franglish and Café Conversation and I decided to try one out.

The event I went to had a concept similar to that of speed dating (without the awkward chatting up), with 7 minutes each to speak in French and English. After the time is up, you move onto another table, meet a new partner and repeat the cycle.  Simple.

Language exchanges are successful because they provide a medium to meet native speakers in a relaxed environment. There is no need to feel embarrassed or anxious when making mistakes, as everyone understands the difficulty of learning a language. It is also a brilliant compromise, as both parties get the opportunity to put their language skills into practice. Additionally, the events attract a wide variety of people which allows for a large scope of conversation topics.

Needless to say, the concept can become repetitive and you do find yourself saying the same spiel over and over again.  The constant chopping and changing also has a downside as you often have to leave conservations unfinished when you’ve reached an interesting point. Lastly, as an intern, I found the event I went to a bit expensive at 8 Euros (12 Euros without student discount). However, the price does include a drink.

Complaints aside, I feel it is a worthwhile investment and the opportunity to meet native French speakers, who are willing to help me with my French, is priceless. The road to fluency is often a long and frustrating one but a language exchange offers the prospect to do so in a welcoming and non- intimidating atmosphere. I would highly recommend participating in language exchanges to anyone who wishes to improve their language skills, regardless of their level of fluency.

What do you think of language exchanges? Do you have any other innovative ways for learning languages?