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17 lessons in 17 months

It still surprises me some day that I live in Paris. Not only that, time has also sneaks up on me. It didn’t feel that long ago when I flew into Paris-CDG with an overweight suitcase, battling my way up and down staircases of public transport system and my then new building (how come no one ever offered to help?), before collapsing into a studio apartment with a beautiful view of springtime out the window.

In between then and now, much has changed and many lessons have been sent my way, whether I asked for them or not. Some are glaringly obvious, others not quite so. These are lessons which Paris has taught me in the past 17 months (yes, already!) …

1. Paperworks: first, buy a folder. I personally go for clear sleeve filing kind so I can scan the contents quickly as I flip the sleeves. Next, file everything imaginable into it – originals, translations, photocopies of them. Don’t leave for any administration offices without it. The system (normally) works best when you can produce everything asked of you without further ado. It’ll be another blog post altogether to tell you where things went wrong!

2. Extract of birth certificate: total naïveté on my part for thinking that the certificate which I had since birth was good. I was wrong. The extract usually cannot be dated more than a few months (usually 3 or 6) for administrative purposes. I’m never entirely sure why the emphasis on the date and beware, not all embassy/consulate could issue it. In my case, I had to ask my brother to obtain one on my behalf in my home country, send it over, and be translated. The cherry on top? They contain the same information, except the date of issue, bien sûr.

3. Passport-sized photographs: for some unfathomable reason, I managed to go through my set of 12 photo pack in a mere couple of months. Oh just 3 for this administrative office, 3 for another, then 2 elsewhere… Stock them in your purse/wallet, always. Otherwise, at a price of €5, you can get your mugshots taken at photobooths at the RER/métro stations.

4. Budgeted ciné-tainment: I have lost count of the number of cinemas within walking distance from home, showing the latest blockbusters as well as classics from years gone by. Going to the cinema doesn’t have to break the bank – a monthly unlimited viewing card would do nicely. At the price of about 2 movies, the two most competitive cards to get are those of UGC-MK2 and Gaumont-Pathé.

5. Be a regular: you’ve heard this time and over again – be a regular customer and you’ll be bequethed with friendlier and more efficient services. Take time to get to know the faces behind the counter. I’m still working on the clever banter bits. One day, it will all come together. One day…

6. Velib’ is fun: there, I’ve said it. At first, it was unthinkable that I would cycle around Paris, lest sharing the bike lanes with buses. Now, I’m a lot more open to taking a bike out. And I’m even becoming a pro at cycling in skirt/dresses!

7. Get a library card: the city owns some 70 libraries around town and with the same card, access to all is possible. What you can borrow depends on the kind of subscription that you takes out – books, BDs (comic books), CDs, DVDs, in French, in English, dual-lingual… Given the recent tax hikes in books, more the reason to borrow and not buy.

8. Use your cheques: especially for paying large purchases that you’re not buying online. I was caught out once, after a series of events, to not being able to access money in my account because I’ve reached the (debit) card expenditure limit. For 30 rolling days. Finally I understood why people still use cheques in this country.

9. Play tourist: the best way to cultivate the love affair with Paris is to constantly explore it through the curious eyes of a tourist. There is always something new to discover, a different facet to uncover, some nooks and corners to see anew.

10. Go easy on the pastries: so many delicious varieties everywhere, I learned the hard way that it is impossible to try them all. Already I had to commit myself to a few more rounds at Luco to lose those extra-sweet calories packed in, this habit is also eating into my food budget very quickly. Just one small thing though – why would Pierre Hermé not issue me with a fidelity card? :p

11. Take a bus: honestly, buses are so easy to use in Paris and for most of the time, a much more pleasant experience than taking the métro. Sure it’ll usually take a little more time, subject to traffic condition, but you get to see more than just underground tunnels of the city. Nowadays I use métro mostly when I needed to be at a certain place punctually for their schedules are easier to time. Otherwise, hop on the bus, baby.

12. Speak French anyway: I’m conscious about using languages incorrectly but you know what, I’ve stopped caring about how silly I may have sound but try to focus more on communicating with people in whichever way I could. I still make plenty of grammatical and syntax errors but at least, accordingly, I sound cute while making them. ;)

13. Buy a museum pass: pick a favourite museum and buy its annual pass. Then, spend an hour or two each visit to see a particular part of the museum or the temporary exhibitions accessible using the pass. Goodbye over-saturation in trying to see everything in one go, hello new appreciation.

14. Follow walking tours: the tour guides that know Paris well are a wealth of information and tips for this and that. Participating in walking tours is one of the best ways to get to know certain neighbourhoods/places and the history/stories behind them. If it’s not for the knowledgeable guides, I would have easily walk past all kind of significant places and know naught of them today.

15. Eat seasonal: it is too easy to find vegetables and fruits imported from abroad all year round, but why not buy what’s local and seasonal at cheaper prices for better quality produce? My favourite vegetable and fruit vendors are both regional producers – what they don’t sell are what I don’t buy. Period.

16. Relationship matters: near or far, there are relationships that truly matter and must not be neglected. Make a phone call, send a text message, ping through webchats, pokes on Facebook. Whichever method you use, work at these relationships so there will be no drifts. Love the people you care about like you should and want to be loved.

17. It is ok to be afraid: anything new, unknown or beyond our immediate control can be scary. Terrifying even. It is important not to let that feeling takes over. Lean on supports if need be, but at the end of the day, stand up and own the fear. Then move forward. Any mis-step is another lesson in life towards the right direction.

Category: Musing

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4 scribbles & notes

  1. Chloé says:

    and never be afraid to get a little complaining in on the webchats ;)
    gosh, 17 months already? crazy how time goes by…

  2. sila says:

    to another 17 more months? (or years??) :)

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