I Hated Paris And It's Completely My Fault
A story on not being intimidated when in a new culture.
You guys, I hated Paris. There, I said it. All the museum-like buildings, the milky gray skies, the chocolate croissants, the coffees on balconies that overlooked winding streets that looked like maps – none of it could sway me into loving the City of Lights. I don't care how many Nutella crepes there were in a 10 yard radius or how many beautiful men in circle reading glasses smiled at me, I didn't want to put on my boots and explore the place. Why? Because I'm a ridiculous human being.
Let's back it up a step and start from the beginning: When I first arrived in Paris I was all frazzled and excited, with Euros clutched in my hand and “one chocolate croissant, please” translated in French on my palm. I was ready for all the fairy tales. So with my suitcase in hand, I noisily rolled it behind me through winding cobble stone streets to my first cafe, ready to burn an hour sipping a cappuccino and counting all the berets that passed by my little wiry table.
So sitting down in my chair, I smiled winningly at my heart-achingly gorgeous waiter and asked, in tragically broken French, if I could have my croissant. To which he scowled and told me he had no idea what just came out of my mouth.
So I tried English.
Again, he said he didn't understand English...in perfect English. To which my cheeks prickled, my face turned pink, and I started sweating underneath my coat. Shit. We proceeded to stare at each other for a minute before he sighed and went in to make my coffee.
That wasn't quite the beginning I imagined. And because of that hitch, my whole four day weekend there went on that same track: I was too nervous to speak any language to anyone and instead just wandered around with my hands in my pockets, buying soggy chicken salad sandwiches at grocery stores that had self checkout lanes. I passed by bakeries colorful with macarons and piled high with flaky French pastries, and cried a little on the inside. I only got dinner at tourist trap restaurants that priced their lame BLT sandwiches as much as a hotel room, just because I knew no one was going to smack me with a newspaper if I tried to order in English. I didn't go to bars, I didn't wander into cafes, I would rather jump into the Seine than ask for directions when my map wasn't making any sense, and I began scowling suspiciously at babies that waved hello. Things were rough.
And it was completely, totally my fault.
I was outside of my element. I had to hustle a little to try and acclimate to somewhere new and beautiful, but instead of trying I chose to break out into stress sweats and slink back to my apartment.
I could have easily kept trying to piece together sentences in broken, terrible French (like how many words do you actually need to order macarons?), I could have left my ego in my suitcase and not cared that I sounded foolish when asking for directions, and I could have had some faith that not all French people want to rip up my passport and actually went out and had some wine with a couple of them. Missed opportunities.
So don't pull a "me," fellow travel lovers. Don't get intimidated by a new city so much that you choose to hate it rather than find all the lovely parts of it. Put yourself out there, and see what's waiting for you. I really wish I did.