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PARIS

This is the moment you know you’ve become Parisian

Have you "gone native" in Paris - and do you remember the turning point? Twelve adopted "Parisians" share the moment when they realized they were a local.

This is the moment you know you've become Parisian
Photo: jan lewandowski/Flickr
When I mastered the the Arc de Triomphe (Etoile) roundabout, says TV presenter Darren Tulett.
 
I guess I really felt like I belonged once I had mastered going round l'Etoile – surely one of the craziest roundabouts in the world – on my bike.
 
It was back in the days when I lived in Montmartre, which already had me feeling quite French. With my mate Nick we'd go all over town on our bikes and once we'd conquered the Etoile – with a head-down, go-for-it mentality that forced the respect of my fellow Parisians.
 
Photo: Arpingstone/WikiCommons
 
When I gave the middle finger to a French driver, says comedian Paul Taylor.
 
I was driving and needed to take a left turn, but had to wait for the oncoming traffic to stop. I was blocking a taxi driver who wouldn't stop beeping his horn, so I did the most Parisian thing: I raised my hand between the two front seats and I gave him the finger. 
 
I could see in the rear-view mirror that he was pretty angry. He caught up to me again eventually, got out of his car, came to my car and started banging on the window. “Hey, ouvre ta fenêtre petit connard”. I opened the window about one centimetre. He shouted “C’était a moi que tu faisait un doigt d’honneur?” (“Was that middle finger for me?”). I responded calmly “Non”. He said “Ah, OK” and just walked back to his car and we carried on with our days. Classic Paris.
 
 
When I couldn't eat a salad without vinaigrette, says writer Stephen Clarke.
 
It was when I first went back to the UK and complained because my salad had no vinaigrette. Before then I'd been used to a few “salady bits”,  dry, or at most with a splash of malt vinegar. Suddenly I realized I was ripping up lettuce leaves and drenching them in olive oil, wine vinegar, mustard and salt. 
 
Photo: Plat/Flickr
 
When I actually enjoyed an argument with another Parisian, says blogger and writer Lindsey Tramuta.
 
I couldn't escape the realization that I was Parisian when I saw the pleasure in verbal jousting and debating with other Parisians.
 
Sometimes they are people I know, other times it's with strangers on the bus, in line at the supermarket or even in my apartment building. But it is always in an effort to correct some sort of injustice or slight and rarely without provocation. The more heated it get, the more the signature, exasperated Parisian sigh comes out. 
 
When I realized eating dinner at 6pm was far too early, say the team at Savoir Faire Paris, a concierge service in Paris. 
 
I knew I was turning Parisian when I found a 6pm dinner outrageously early. On a recent trip to the US I was so thrown off at the thought of us collectively sitting down so early that I realized I was starting to turn Parisian. 
 
Photo: AFP
 
When I embraced “Paris bed hair”, says writer Lisa Anselmo.
 
I knew I was turning Parisian when I stopped fussing over my hair to make it perfectly coiffed. Bed head is sexy over here, and you can't fight the hard water, so I just brush and go, et voilà.
 
When I realised how to seduce a la française, says author Elaine Sciolino 
 
The moment came when I was writing my book and Inès de la Fressange, la Parisienne parfaite, told me I would only know what it meant to be seductive à la française if I learned how to become less serious in my everyday conversations.
 
“So when I told my first joke to a Frenchman and he laughed, I knew I had become a little bit Parisian.”
 
When I knew Chatelet Metro stop just had to be avoided at all costs, says tour guide Corey Frye.
 
…when I finally learned to avoid that scourge of all public transportation: the Chatelet metro station.
 
It's crowded, dark, and perpetually under construction (just tile the damn walls already!). Transfers can take ages as you do the “sardine shuffle” underground. Smart locals give this behemoth hub a wide berth when possible, voluntarily adding time to their commute to avoid it. I've gladly joined their ranks. 
 
Photo: poudou99/WikiCommons
 
When you embrace lift etiquette, says Nhan Nguyen, who runs My Love for Paris.
 
You know you're turning Parisian when you become irritated the complete stranger in the lift didn't wish you “bonne journée” before leaving the lift.
 
When I started to use the word putain rather than f**k, says blogger Kate Goodbody.
 
I knew I was turning Parisian when I started saying putain instead of more anglo-saxon outbursts.
 
I remember I was in the UK waiting for a flight back to Paris and as the announcer explained our flight was to be delayed I muttered to myself “Putain, c'est la galère”!
 
 
When I understood the Paris transport map, say the team at Expats Paris.
 
I knew I had “turned Parisian” on a day when the metro line 4 had a 30-minute interruption at the Simplon station. I jumped out, took the bus 56 to Gare Du Nord then from there, I took the RER B to my final stop of Châtelet. All this happened in 30 minutes
 
You know you’re turning Parisian when you understand the Paris transport map.
 
When I started ringing my bell furiously on a Velib bike, write The Local's Ben McPartland
 
 
When I first got to Paris, all those bicycle bell ringers in Paris infuriated me. Getting someone to move out of the way by ringing a bell felt cold and impolite to an impeccably well-mannered and courteous Brit.
 
I would sneak up behind pedestrians or other cyclists and whisper “Excusez Moi” followed by a sincere “Merci beaucoup”.
 
That was five years ago.
 
Now I'm ringing the bell from 100 metres away. And if they don't move in time, then they will be subject to fierce gesticulations or determined under-the-breath muttering. Occasionally, if the obstacle is young children or elderly people, I'll consider slowing down.
 
 
 
 

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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