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Europe: An American’s Cultural False Friend

Do you remember the lesson on false friends in English class? No, I’m not referring to the shady classmates who were pretending to be your friend but who really weren’t. False friends are words that look similar but have a different meaning. I also like to extend this terminology when comparing European and American culture. A quick glance at any American study abroad program shows that American students prefer to study abroad in western countries, aka Europe, just by the sheer volume of programs established in Europe by American universities. This is not to say that Europe doesn’t have great schools or great programs. They do. But so do many other non-European countries. So why is the demand so high to study abroad in Europe? I suspect because it is the belief that Europe and the United States share a similar way of living, students would have an easier adjustment. This is true – to a degree. Europe and the USA do share a scientific, political, historical, linguistic and cultural lineage. And certainly we are very politically and monetarily intertwined with our European brethren. However there are grand differences between the 2 continents.

Europe is a false friend in terms of culture because although the USA shares many similar traits, there are so many differences. These similar traits lured me into a false sense of security and belief that I did not have to prepare much for the differences as I could expect a very similar way of life. This false friend caught me off guard when I came into contact with things like strikes; French bureaucracy; the uncanny French ability to disagree with almost everything; the general union worker mentality; the inability to go against the grain; independent decisions discouraged in businesses; the customer is NOT in the right (try making a commotion at a French store when you are not pleased and see what doesn’t happen); the different relationship with government; the list does go on and on. These things are all in contrast to the American way of: money/business comes first before everything; the can-do attitude; live to work; the customer is ALWAYS right; workers being able to make autonomous decisions; unions mostly looked down upon; free market; independent spirit; no one is responsible for you but you. I am not here to assert that one way is better over the other. Merely, that they are different and that culture shock is real for American students who study in Europe. When choosing a study abroad program, make sure it is because it will have a beneficial impact on your major/career needs and goals and not because the culture resembles your own. You never know when you may encounter a false friend.

 

 

  
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Morgan’s Freshman Year in Paris: You’ve Been Accepted!

In a sense, I did not choose Paris, rather Paris chose me. Well, that’s what I like to believe considering it was not thoroughly planned out (and when things happen in my life that aren’t entirely planned out I assume that they are acts of fate).

First, let me say that I speak maybe 5 whole sentences in French, (those of which include ‘more bread please’ and ‘one glass of wine’) but I’d always felt a connection to the French culture. In fact, this past fall I hosted a French exchange student in hopes of picking up some of the French language. By the end of the month, I didn’t learn any French, but I did end up with an amazing friend and a place to call home at her house in Caen.

While Fleur, the exchange student, was in town, I began working on my application to my first choice school: New York University. While filling out my application I came across a question that was worded somewhere along the lines of ‘Would you like to be considered for the Liberal Core Global Learning Program?’ On a whim, I selected yes. As a result of selecting yes, a subsequent question popped up ‘And if you are to be selected, at which global NYU campus would you like to study?’ My choices were London, Florence, Paris, or New York City. I chuckled as I selected Paris. My rationale was ‘not in a million years would I actually be accepted into this program because who really gets to do stuff like this anyway, so why not choose something totally ridiculous?’

For the following couple of weeks as I waited for my NYU letter, I didn’t think once of that seemingly insignificant box I selected. That is, until I got my acceptance letter. On the night of December 13th, I received my acceptance email from NYU. All I needed to see was the ‘Congratulations!’ I didn’t think to read any further. When my mom sat down to read the email out loud in its entirety, she stopped when she approached the second paragraph. “What?” my dad and I said in unison. “‘We expect that you will be spending your freshman year at NYU’s Paris campus’” she read.

It’s shocking how drastically a person’s life can change in a matter of moments. I had never before dreamed of spending my first year at college in Paris. I am still dumbfounded today at the thought of one day (and very soon!) living in Paris. Since receiving that email, I’ve slowly been adjusting to the idea of and dreaming ferociously of my new life in Paris. I’ve been trying to add all the Parisian essentials to my wardrobe while preparing my long-term boyfriend for the inevitable separation. I’ve told my French exchange student, grandparents, teachers, and friends about the news. Every time someone finds out about my college plans they say, “Wow, Paris! Congratulations!” I can’t help but laugh at the fact that one extra click changed life as I know it.

(photo is screenshot of Morgan’s acceptance email- Congrats !)

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Morgan Liverman

Morgan is a high school senior in Nashville, Tennessee. She was accepted into NYU and will be studying abroad in Paris her first year of college starting in September 2014.

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Eleanor’s Paris Adventures: The Differences Between Peaches and Coconuts

I have now been in Paris for three weeks. It’s a crazy statement – wasn’t I just home packing and waiting for the moment the plane would touch down at Charles de Gaulle? Now I am in Paris, walking past Notre Dame each day on the way to class and taking photos of the Eiffel Tower every time I see it. I’ve figured out the cheapest place to buy crepes with Nutella and I’ve been to the movies (in French!) twice. It’s like a dream.

One of the most interesting parts of my time so far in Paris would have to be the metro. Oh, the Parisian metro. I love the metro because I can take it to basically anywhere in the city. It’s a bit confusing to figure it out, but once you do, you’re set to go anywhere. And what a cool feeling once you’ve mastered it! I feel so official when I swipe my Navigo card (monthly pass) and board the train with the rest of the Parisians.

What I don’t like about the metro is that there are a lot of homeless people in the stations, and it makes me sad. There are many homeless people all over Paris, really. I am from Boston and there are homeless people there, too, but nowhere near as many as I’ve seen here. Seeing people sleeping in the metro stations makes me realize that Paris is not just the rosy picture in the movies. The other issue with the metro is that it is often packed to the brim. Paris is a city of 2.2 million people, and many of them use the metro every day. At peak times, you can be squished in the car there with a hundred people you don’t know. For someone not used to it, it can be kind of uncomfortable!

Not everything about Paris is perfect, but it’s all about the attitude. At orientation, our professor told us that Americans are like peaches and French people are like coconuts. As Americans, we are friendly and smiley toward everyone. We let people get to know us quite easily. However, our hard inner center is not open to a lot of people. We let people in, but only to a point. French people are the opposite. They are like coconuts: hard to penetrate, but once you’re friends with a French person you’re always friends with them. French people are far more reserved than Americans. At home, I usually smile at people on the street, but here, that is considered strange. It’s not a bad change, it’s just an important cultural difference.

Paris is exactly as I expected in some ways, but in other ways there are aspects I just never thought about. I pictured the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and the churches and the beautiful architecture, because I’ve seen those images for years. But I never thought that the food would be so good and the beautiful architecture would be on literally every street. I had some expectations, but other than the ones I mentioned I didn’t really think about what my daily life would be like. I hadn’t anticipated that I would simultaneously remember more French than I expected to and that it is very difficult to converse with your host mother when you don’t speak her language that well. I hadn’t anticipated that I would make really great American friends in my program but also easily become friends with people of other nationalities just by going to a few events.

Paris thus far has been a study in contrast, but I am really loving my time here. All this to say, it is even better than I expected it to be in almost every single way!

(Beautiful photos taken by Eleanor)

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Eleanor Harte

Eleanor is currently studying abroad in Paris at the Sorbonne where she is taking Political Science and French classes through CEA for her junior year. Back in the USA, she goes to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she's studying Journalism and Political Science. Follow her on twitter @eleanormharte and Instagram www.instagram.com/eleanormharte.

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Paris OffBeat: See Paris Like the Parisians

(www.parisoffbeat.com)

I recently discovered Paris OffBeat, a company that caters trips around Paris based on your personal interests and budget to help you see Paris like a native. Founder and owner, Ludovic Yken, sat down with me to discuss how Paris OffBeat is a great option for students who are visiting Paris or who are looking to explore the city they calling home while studying abroad to see Paris like the Parisians do.

AB: What kind of trip itinerary would you recommend to students traveling around Paris on a budget?

LY: Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world but there are some tips to avoid spending a fortune. Food is always expensive and it’s very hard for students to find a good and cheap restaurant. Here are the top 3 restaurants that I recommend for students that won’t break their wallet!

#1

Frenchie To Go (http://www.frenchie-restaurant.com/en/frenchie-go)
9 rue du Nil
75002 Paris

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After the launch of popular restaurants « Frenchie Le bistro » and « Frenchie The Wine bar (with those delicious tapas) », what can the Parisians expect from Gregory Marchand with this new restaurant Frenchie To Go? We have to acknowledge that every time he regales us with his highly flavorful food, your taste buds explode within two bites. Well, this is still the case here. Marchand delights foodies with his spin on hot dogs, sandwiches, fish & chips, and much, much more to eat in house or enjoy via take out. This is haute couture, tailor-made, gentrified “street food” which has been transformed. Marchand’s fish & chips or hake replaces haddock with extra fries and tartar sauce- exceptional ! In short, it’s really top tier pastries and food. Congratulations to Greg and his talented team. Guaranteed to enjoy.

#2

Tempero (http://www.tempero.fr/)
5 rue Clisson
75013 Paris

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Finding a really good restaurant with really good food for only 15 € in Paris is a challenge. But the search is over as Tempero is here! This bistro has it all: a lovely setting; a warm welcome; and perfect service and cuisine that exceeds all expectations. Not to mention an international staff including a charming, Italian waitress and a remarkable team of foreign leaders. Tempero’s menu is fresh from the market and offers a variety of meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes. Upon being seated at a table, you are seduced by the sumptuous bread and appetizer of a bowl of cold beef broth with foie gras seasoned with coriander, chives and onions, and raw salmon miso. Aside from the delectable flavors, the appetizers are a pure delight overflowing with finesse and balance. Its risotto with porcini mushrooms, bib, cream potatoes and chanterelles are extremely pleasurable to the taste buds! The original pear poached, stewed eggplant and vanilla ice cream is a super, sweet treat.

#3

Ô Divin
35 rue des Annelets
75019 Paris

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It’s premium quality, down home cooking with yummy sauces and seasonings. Ludovic was seduced by the charm of mini-room adjoining a private yard and by the friendly welcome of Naoufel. In the kitchen, Redha (the owner’s brother) plays second chef. Excellent organic Gamay (great French red wine) accompanies a stunning lens-haddock and radish salad and variation around the burrata and beets. These are two colorful and very palatable dishes. The back of hake, onions, potatoes and broth pea pods and pork cheeks, plump and tender like a cherub, mushrooms, butternut and smoke emulsion are also delicious.

Thanks for sharing those suggestions!

AB: Do you offer something special for students like discounts, packages, events?

LY: I know how difficult it is to be a student and try to have a a nice life in Paris. I tried it myself for a few years. My wish is that everybody can afford to use a service like Paris Offbeat. I offer a 15% discount for students- just send me an email with the your major and where you’re going to school in Paris. It’s that simple!

AB: Are you able to create a trip itinerary for students who are studying abroad in Paris and are not sure what to see/where to go to have a native experience?

LY: This is exactly the mission of Paris Offbeat : Understanding a traveler’s needs to meet their expectations and wishes. Students often seek places where the young Parisian twenty-somethings hang out, where the best parties are and the cool, trending places that don’t cost a fortune. I know where they can find all of them- I’ll give them my secret spots!

AB: What piece of advice can you offer foreign students studying abroad/visiting Paris for the first time?

LY: First, don’t be afraid of the size of Paris. Contrary to popular belief, Paris is a small city for a capital. Students must be curious and explore all areas of Paris. When you spend so much time in Paris, you can not limit yourself to the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and Saint Germain. You must discover the areas around Bastille, République, Place d’Italie … Be adventurous and visit all the districts!

AB: Is there any district/ attraction in Paris that is student oriented?

LY: The triangle of intersecting streets rue Oberkampf, Jean-Pierre Timbaud and Saint-Maur is the place where students go on Thursday and Friday nights. There you’ll find funky bars such as L’orange Méchanique, l’Alimentation Générale ou l’Internationale which has a very electric atmosphere. And the music and festivities are allowed to continue up to two in the morning!

Paris Offbeat is Twenty in Paris approved. Visit www.parisoffbeat.com and contact Ludovic to plan your next trip to Paris or to learn something new about your host city while studying abroad.

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Ludovic Yken is the founder of Paris Offbeat, a 100% online guide that organizes your customized trip to Paris off the beaten path. Contact him to discover Paris like a local.

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