Breaking the Dream: Why You Need to Know France also has Violent Crimes

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Every once in a while, I come across an American student online who expresses how France has less violent crimes than the USA. Not only is this incorrect, but it’s grossly incorrect. This belief that France is peaceful can led to unrealistic expectations of French life / culture and can have very negative impacts for your study abroad. How do I know this? Because I was exactly the same way. So how can a student realistically think that France is practically violent crime free? There are three main reasons: overexposure to negative American news stories, American news outlets only covering negative news stories from abroad, students not knowing the importance of following French news to gain a greater understanding of the culture and create realistic expectations of life in the hexagon. Let’s break it down one by one!

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Overexposure to negative news stories

In my early – mid teens, I witnessed the United States go through the Columbine school shootings, the September 11th attacks, and local murders / violent crimes from the comfort of my own home. Did anything positive happen in the USA from 1999-2005? If it did, no American news outlet was covering it. I know that bad news sells better, but being bombarded by only negative stories can make a person think that America is the most dangerous place on Earth.

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No good news from abroad

American news outlets aren’t known for always reporting foreign affairs…unless something like the Charlie Hebdo attacks happen.  Since popular American news outlets aren’t covering most French events, many study abroad students aren’t getting any exposure to current French culture until something devastating happens. This is not an accurate or realistic way to learn about another culture through the news.

le monde app(What Le Monde app looks like on a tablet. Photo by

The importance of following the news

Following French news daily not only helps you to improve your linguistic skills, but it will also help you find out which issues are important to French and how they handle them. This in turn creates an understanding and awareness of the host culture. By following French news from an actual French source, you’ll be preparing for life abroad in France; instead of just going by the occasional bad news story covered by American news.

So what’s the moral of the story? France is not a peaceful country. They suffer from the same violent crimes as the United States. Knowing that France is not a peaceful paradise will make sure that you don’t develop unrealistic expectations of this country (or judge the USA too harshly).

Check out these recent articles on France’s violent crimes (particularly in Marseille)


Art in Paris: Finding My Way in Paris

(All Images by Jhanay)

I have always had a passion for art. I remember in elementary school selling quick doodles of my friends for a quarter and family friends looking over my drawings and murmuring, “I see a future artist in the family!”

Little did I know that those doodles and late-night sketches will take me to Paris, where I am currently studying my master’s degree with dreams in working in the art world.

Armed with a list of museums and a dictionary in hand I was ready to see artworks that I spent countless hours studying and copying. Little did I know that despite my undergraduate degree in art history, I was about to face a life-changing discovery in my move to Paris.

Hey there Mona Lisa!

What I found was a culture that was deeply rooted in the arts and culture, but quite intimidating for outsiders to face. The Louvre was beautiful and my memory of first arriving there will always be a happy one, but I felt overwhelmed with the large tourists groups and being unable to understand most of the signs in front of me.


Smaller galleries and museums were less intimidating, but I felt an overwhelming disconnect from the Parisian world and myself. I realized my issues were beyond galleries and museums, but my overall experience as an outsider to Parisian culture.  In hindsight, I knew my negative experiences came with me expecting that everything in France should be catered to my American expat experience. I am given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to face a new language and a new world, so I decided that it was time for a change.

Me thinking about my future

So how does someone face the complex world of Parisian culture? Here are some ideas that have worked for me:

  1. Language experience: Navigating Paris is so much easier if you know even a few phrases of french. The easiest way to feel comfortable with practicing your french skills is language exchange groups; there you can not only meet new french friends but also improve your French! One of my favorite language exchange groups is Franglish (
  2. Become more cultured: Open your mind to writers, artists and thinkers- it’s a great way to spark conversation with anyone here in Paris. For English books on french writers, I suggest making a stop to Gilbert Jeune bookstore, a wonderful french bookstore chain. Interested in learning more about the arts and don’t know where to start? The Parisian startup, Artips (, sends their subscribers free english art history newsletters to their inbox that takes only a few seconds to read!


Thanks to these small adjustments in my life, I am slowly learning more and more about life in France. Despite many cultural hurdles, I never regret deciding to do this amazing and humbling experience. My dedication to understanding different cultures have fostered my passion for working in the arts, especially in a career in public relations or consulting. Hopefully my experiences and mistakes can help you own your own travel journey!



Jhanay Williams

Jhanay is a postgraduate student at the American University of Paris who is trying to navigate the crazy world of France, equipped with only a dictionary and a croissant. If you're interested in the art world and want to feel like a real cultured Parisian, you can sign up for (the always) free membership at

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Feature Your Paris Study Abroad Photos on Twenty in Paris Blog!

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Do you have great photos from your Paris study abroad and want to show off your photographe skills? Share them on the Internet’s favorite Paris study abroad blog! I want to feature your Paris photos on the Twenty in Paris blog to help expose your beautiful photos to fellow students, travelers, and Paris enthusiasts in weekly posts. Each photo will bear your name and your website or social media link under it to give you credit. With over 2,000 monthly views from around the globe, this is an excellent opportunity to spread your Paris love with others. But that’s not it! For any post which features your photo (s) that gets 200 views or more in a month, will get a free gift card. Woohoo!

paris-beautiful(Photo by; Do you have a photo like this? Feature it here!)

To share your photo:

  • Please send a JPEG or PNG format image to Andrea via email at with the subject “Paris Photo”.
  • Don’t forget to tell me your full name and provide me your website or social media link so that I can give you credit.
  • You must be the owner of the photo(s)
  • Looking for your photos- food, monuments / sites, images that showcase French culture, art, university life
  • Please no selfies


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French Expressions You Don’t Learn in Class: All About that Ass

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French class is a great introduction to learning the French language, but to really learn French you need to speak to a native. Foreign language classes are invaluable in teaching you basic vocabulary, an understanding of sentence structure, and a familiarity with grammar. French class gives you the building blocks to foreign language mastery, but you won’t get mastery status alone from classes. To truly master a language, you need to know expressions. You know, the ones natives use excitedly and quickly mid-coversation. Use of expressions is a tell-tale sign that you have reached a higher level of fluency in another language. But if French class isn’t teaching you these expressions, where do you learn them? By speaking with a native!

A few days ago at lunch, my French friends were having a very serious discussion. I didn’t realize it when I initially sat down. But within a matter of seconds, I understood that I came in on a very serious (and unpleasant) work conversation. Not wanting to interrupt more than I already did, I just listened and quietly ate my lunch…until I heard something that caught my ears. In the height of a heated moment, my friend Didier said Il faut sortir les doigts du cul et se mettre au boulot. What really caught my attention was cul or ass in French. At first I thought he said sortir les droigts du cul (take the rights out of your ass). It didn’t make any sense to me so I asked what the expression meant. Sometimes it’s good to be the foreign kid at the lunch table. The other two people in this conversation were relieved for this linguistic explanation interruption and the conversation changed course. Here’s what I found out:

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  • Sortir les doigts du cul et se mettre au boulot. [Translation] Take the fingers out of your ass and get back to work. This expression is for when there is work that needs to be done (but isn’t getting done) and you want everyone to get back on track. Apparently, this can be used at the office to help motivate your team. Quick tip- just don’t use this at a corporate headquarter.

If you’re going to learn one expression about taking things out of your ass, why not a few more?

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  • Avoir la balai dans le cul. [Translation] To have a broom up your ass. This is very similar to the American expression “to have a stick up your ass”. It means that someone is uptight, rigid, and unflexible.

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  • Avoir la tête dans le cul. [Translation] To have your head in your ass. The meaning of this French expression is quite different than the English one. In French it means that you’re tired, usually from a hangover or from being overworked.