Cate Ferraro: Paris teaches lifestyle lessons

Friends relaxing in Square du Vert Galant

The first place I noticed a French lifestyle difference was at Square du Vert Galant, a beautiful park along the Seine River. My friend Hannah pointed it out to me. “Look at how many young people there are!” she said. And she was right – almost everyone around us was of young adult age. From friend groups to couples on dates, the park had attracted a young crowd. 

One group was celebrating a birthday, another was having a dance party. The couple sitting next to us was having a picnic. Everyone was engaged in conversation, and there was not a phone in sight. 

Friends relaxing in Square du Vert Galant

It was shocking to see; normally parks in my hometown attract families with young kids, not 20 somethings. I can’t say that I have ever really considered a park as a hangout spot for my friends and I until I came to Paris. I was also surprised to see so many people my age interacting without the presence of phones. 

Paris was special.  

Food was a different experience in Paris as well. I noticed the people around me would enjoy their food at a cafe for quite a while. There was no rush. Those who visited the cafe alone were not working on a laptop like I am used to seeing; instead they were keeping busy by reading or journaling. It was common to see friends talking over empty plates – staying in the cafe long after they were done eating to share each other’s company. 

This was definitely a culture shock compared to the fast paced, “I’ll take it to go” attitude I am used to in U.S. cities. I asked my waiter how long people typically stayed in his establishment. “One to three hours,” he said. 

Quality is another component of French culture. I would often run into the local market and get a pre-made lunch for only a few euros. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of a ham and cheese sandwich that I purchased for under three euros. I would, of course, see the quality and restaurants as well. It took a bit longer for our food to arrive at the table, but it was always well worth the wait. The chefs and waiters cared that we enjoyed our meal. 

The special attention to quality was embedded throughout my stay in Paris. I stayed at the Hotel Marignan, a classic French hotel. In the heart of the Latin Quarter, this hotel was a perfect location to explore the city from. The hotel manager, Roland Keniger, and his staff were very involved in our stay, ready to help with whatever we needed, while still keeping the no-nonsense attitude the French are known for. This was a hotel experience like no other. 

Roland shared his thoughts on the unique French lifestyle. “People in France do not use much technology in their private lives like they do in the U.S.,” he said, “human interaction is a big part of the culture.”

I agree with Roland that the French do not use technology in the same way that Americans do. From what I gathered in our conversation and my short experience in the city, people in Paris seemed to use technology differently than what I was used to seeing. The most concentrated use of screen time I observed was on the metro, where Parisians were texting, scrolling, and listening to music while they traveled. 

My trip to Paris taught me to slow down. To take in the world around me and all the things it has to offer. 

Paris is a gem. It is quaint, yet modern; exciting, yet mellow. At first the city appears to be a paradox. There is so much to do yet no rush to do it. The Parisian lifestyle is built on love – love for food, art, and people. The French value their aesthetic experience, and they want to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Maybe that is why they call it the city of love. 

Categories: Europe Travel, Personal Blogs, Profiles

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