Category Archives: Lifestyle

One Year in Paris and TEDxESCP

Studying abroad in Paris

Studying abroad in Paris

Funny enough, I did that a year ago and still do today.

1 year in Paris. Wow. Save for a week long visa pit-stop in Vancouver, I’ve spent the last 13 months (post overdue) living a distant 8,000km from my hometown. What began as an academic exchange gave way to a year long jaunt through an internship that’s been personally rewarding and career defining. While probably not unconventional, I’d say I took a road less traveled from my Canadian peers (yet seems so commonplace here). Anyways, a couple important things I’ve learned over the last year:

Self reflection. There’s something about crossing an ocean to live, study and work abroad that’s allowed me to hone in on my personal and professional priorities. The French social norms, cultural references and life philosophies have made me much more aware of my North American background and values. Being abroad has also given me a new found appreciation for Vancouver’s beautiful outdoors and the West Coast atmosphere that I always took for granted (although I can’t say the same for the Pacific Northwest rain). Most importantly, studying and working abroad has highlighted the importance of getting an international taste of business.

Keeping in touch. Sometimes it feels like being frozen in time watching friends  graduate, enter the corporate world and move to new phases in their lives. The distance has tested relationships with friends and family – I’ve traded daily camaraderie for infrequent updates and highlight sessions. It’s deceptively easy for relationships fall way side and takes thrice as much effort to keep up. Facebook, Twitter, Skype and the telephone are all essential tools. It’s been the same over here to as many of the amazing people that I’ve met here have gone to study abroad, intern internationally or do a cross-campus exchange.

Realistic expectations. I hawed at my friend’s claim of the Paris Syndrome as a legitimate disorder. There’s more to the city than the temples of Ladurée, Louvre and Louis Vuitton. It’s not perfect: petty crime, maintaining tradition and the sometimes off-putting indifferent attitude. And that’s only the surface. But it reinforced how important it is to keep an open mind and maintain no/realistic expectations. Cross-cultural transitions past the honeymoon phase can be challenging, and it’s definitely important to “keep it real”.

TEDxESCP

On another note I’ve got to applaud the amazing TEDxESCP event I attended this weekend. I was fortunate enough to score a ticket to the inaugural TEDxESCP which a couple of my friends have been feverishly planning over the last 6 months.

TEDxESCP

TEDxESCP

Big shout outs to this year’s team on pulling off a fantastic event and putting ESCP on the TED map. It was a slam-packed afternoon which included design minded insight from Prezi, seeing the jaw-dropping work of an aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon and the guitar-ific likes of RIMED. If you missed out on the ticket sales or the live stream, talks should appear on the website in a couple weeks. I’m excited to see who next year’s team brings to the podium, and who knows, maybe even attend.

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Departures

Marché de Noël

So there’s been a tidal wave of departures over the last week complete with farewells, bon voyages and makeshift plans of which city to reunite in next. As exams end and the holidays creep up there’s been a frenzied rush to revel in each other’s company before bidding farewell. Unlike the spring semester where people linger for a couple weeks or the summer, most everyone parts ways abruptly. This fall has been awesome; met tons of great people, caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in ages and besides a cancelled trip to Oslo (darn Ryanair!), the city has been good to me.

While Paris is garnished with traditional Christmas markets and blinged out trees, I’m sensing that December resembles August, which means store closures en masse and flocks of tourists. On that note, I’m Strasbourg bound and excited to check out the renowned Marchés de Noël (Christmas markets) and wander the Alsatian region. As 2011 draws to a close I’m anticipating the New Year celebrations and another great year. 2011 definitely raised the bar.
Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

Patrick

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Flat Finding Flashbacks Part 2: Fall

Victory!

I thought finding an apartment in Paris in January was one of the most nerve wracking, time consuming, soul draining experiences ever. Nothing trumps this fall though, searching for a flat for was a trip down Flat Finding Flashbacks memory lane amped up on humid Paris weather and a flurry of back to school students. At least I didn’t have to spend another 20 Days in a hotel.

This month’s rundown:

205+ emails

170+ calls

15 viewings

8 viewings on “Superday”

4 day of cancellations

3 offers made

2 times being beat out just as papers were going to be handed in

1 new flat

Another 4 months in Paris

Finding a flat in the fall is tough, especially if you consider these circumstances:

  • Can hold 2 people, not a couple
  • Only a 4 month lease – competing against back to school students who want 10 – 12 month leases
  • Don’t speak French (well) Parlez-Vous Anglais?
  • Don’t have guarantors (French citizen who’ll “guarantee” your rent payments if you can’t pay)

All I can say is good luck! Not much to add here that I haven’t already mentioned except start early, always call and be ready to make an offer on the spot.

Patrick

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3 Magic Words: Parlez-Vous Anglais? Do You Speak English?

“Parlez-Vous Anglais?” is the Da Vinci Code to transitioning from French to English in every conversation.

Beginning with English or abruptly switching to English mid-conversation without these magic words when your French gets spotty usually results in this:

Sans Parlez-vous Anglais

Without skipping a beat, your remarks will be disregarded and the dialogue resumes in French. Insisting on anything other than French will be met with perplexed stares, furrowed brows and a one-sided conversation.

However, utter the 3 magic words: “Parlez-Vous Anglais?” (Do you speak English?) And everything changes.

You’ll often hear “A little”, or “Yes, but not well”, and then the conversation naturally pivots into English. Except for French administration/government, where I’ve received the snarkiest “no” with one part annoyance, two parts disgust, and three parts patriotism. This is the unspoken but just spoken code. A cultural norm. A French tradition.

It’s nearly impossible to bring English to a conversational duel in the French motherland and expect to win. Frenchies will call your conversational bluff and won’t high tail it in a showdown. Only two options exist: circling back to French or waving the “Parlez-vous Anglais” flag. French people are mighty protective of their language.

However, the French can be quite accommodating when speaking French!

Patrick

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Sundays in Paris: Le Marais, Musées and Marchés

Paris, like most of Europe on Sundays, takes its foot off the gas. Time slows and the blistering (kidding) pace of Paris screeches to a halt. Artisans and shopkeepers close their doors to catch up on some much deserved R&R. Which is cool, but what’s open on Sundays?

How is the falafel shop across from L’as du Falafel still in business?

Le Marais: Spanning the 3rd and 4th districts of the right bank, 80%+ of the shops are open for business on Sundays. The trendy Marais brims with an eclectic mix of stylish shops, opticians, chocolatiers and restaurants. Some of my favourite menswear shops and L’as du Falafel are here.

Museums on the first Sunday

Musées: In addition to being open Sundays, every museum is free the first Sunday of month, which means madness. Avoid the “Big 3” – Louvre, d’Orsay, d l’Orangerie and opt for many of the smaller museums or else risk being herd like cattle. All museums have free or discounted tickets if you’re under 26 and/or a student, so no rush.

Porte de Vanves

Marchés: Some of Europe’s largest flea and farmers markets are scattered throughout the city and périphérique. Treasure hunters can go crazy at the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen and bulldoze through troves of antiquities and heirlooms. I’m a big fan of the farmers market on Richard Lenoir at Bastille for fresh produce, poultry, seafood and vegetables.

Other things open:

Parks – When are they not open? With many green spaces throughout the city, park life is a Paris staple. Parisiens are also masters of making public spaces their second home.

Chinatown – While most of the city is closed, the streets of Belleville Chinatown are bustling. Even more shocking is that box stores Monoprix and Franprix hold normal shopping hours. Un-French, but also quite awesome, especially when you run out of food.

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Les Soldes – Semi Annual Sale Season in France

Les Soldes. BHV.

From June 22 – July 26, France is on sale. Twice a year French retailers are given the green light from the state to have Les Soldes, or sale season. With the Euro and most items at a whopping 30% off, shoppers can look forward to paying what is retail in other parts of the world.

Nonetheless, it’s serious business. It’s madness. Parisiennes flock in droves. Printemps is a zoo.

Commoners peruse a few days prior, screening styles, mapping routes, and nailing down sizing to streamline d-day. VIP’s fly in, are whisked between stores by drivers, get their Louis Vuitton on and collect fat VAT refunds before leaving the country.

Like boxing day or Black Friday, discounts range from 30% – 60% off, with large retailers holding extended shopping hours the first few days (the only time I can shop in Paris after 8pm). Most everything but staples are marked down, although screaming bargains are few and far between. The best deals are on clearance racks; the last pair of shoes in an odd size in an interesting colour that have been slashed 70%.

Unlike boxing day or Black Friday, you won’t see shops with loss leading door-crashers for the first few people in queue. Or people camped out in sleeping bags.

When the dust settles in 2 or 3 weeks, another round of markdowns comes for items left behind. For savvy shoppers, this is when the real bargains can be had.

To restore harmony in the retail world, next year’s Mens summer collection is being shown at Paris Fashion Week, which runs parallel with the start of Les Soldes. A curious bunch of stylites and fashionistas are in town getting the lowdown on S/S 12. The Sartorialist is here. Fashion bloggers unite.

It’s Christmas in June.

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Bike Sharing in Paris – Vélib Life

Vélib Life

You can’t help but feel slightly awesome when hopping on the Vélib. Vélib is Paris’ bike sharing system, and like many other bike sharing programs in cities across Europe, you pick up a bike and drop it off at any of stations scattered throughout the city for free within 30 (or 45) minutes. It’s perfect for leisurely rides, trekking home after the metro closes, exploring new areas and escaping the sauna-esque metro in the summer.

I was a bit hesitant the first time I got on the Vélib, given the erratic nature of the French drivers. Not to mention the jaw dropping 6 lane roundabouts at République or Arc de Triomphe. But this was quickly subsided with the numerous semi-designated bike lanes, paths and lack of cars (there really aren’t that many cars on the road).

The best part is it only costs 29€ for a year’s subscription, making it a no-brainer if you’re in Paris for any extended period of time.

However, the bikes only have 3 speeds, which has stopped me from reaching Lance Armstrong speeds and bombing down the Champs-Élysées. And if you’re smaller, the bikes can be a bit heavy and seating is somewhat awkward.

Vélib recently launched a straightforward online registration process and if you’re between 14 – 26, you get an extra 15 minutes free, increasing the total free time to 45 minutes. Sweet!

For tourists and shorter jaunts, daily or weekly passes can be purchased at any Vélib station. Warning: these stations only accept credit cards with chip + pin.

Don’t think you’re going to see many people with aerodynamic neon coloured spandex and Oakleys though:

Leave the spandex at home

Maybe something like this:

Place Vendôme

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