Pickpockets and Parisian Faux Pas

Advertisement on the Montmartre Funicular (Paris) warning of pickpockets. "Beware of pickpockets".
When I moved to Paris for a year at the age of 18, it was, in many ways, my first exposure to the world outside my small South Jersey hometown. I never really experienced culture shock, per se, because I was shocked by everything—living alone, interacting in the world as an adult when, just days before, I’d had a strict curfew and little say in what I would eat, what I would wear, or whom I would be allowed to spend time with. I simply embraced what was in front of me, taking in French culture and slipping it on as easily as I would don a new dress from Sézanne. When I later moved to New York, my cultural experiences in France found perfect matches in Brooklyn, whether in trendy neighborhoods or pastry obsessions.

That’s not to say that my time in France was all croissants and wine tastings. While I was living in Paris, I had my iPhone pickpocketed while trying on clothes at a friperie. (You can check out my guide on how to avoid getting pickpocketed in Paris here.) When my parents shipped me a new phone from the States, the mail office at my university requested several hundred euros in cash, because my stepdad had marked the package as “new technology,” triggering an exorbitant tax on imported tech. (I later learned you should always mark packages as “used personal goods” to avoid this.) I asked if I could come back the next day with the money, and my mom sent me an overnight wire to cover the fee. When I arrived the next day with the cash, I was told that my package had been shipped back to the U.S., since I hadn’t been able to pay the tax upfront.

There are so many things you won’t learn about a culture until you’re actually living in it, from unpronounceable words, to dating customs, to which outfits won’t earn you vehement side-eye on the Paris metro. A lot of pieces that I’ve written for Frenchly over the years have been inspired by things I wish I’d known before I lived in Paris.

Do you have any wild tales of your own about France? I’d love to hear them. And if you’re interested in hearing more, I’ve been working on an Expat Horror Stories podcast in my spare time where I interview expats about their experiences living abroad. In it, friends of mine (lovingly) talk trash about the places they’ve lived, the culture shocks they’ve encountered, and why they’re willing to put up with it for the love of an adopted country. I’m starting with Germany, but France is next on the list!

Things I found on the internet this week…

How to design your garden with inspiration from Monet. Some French Riviera travel inspo. And making fun of French moms in Brooklyn.

For the New York francophiles…

Films on the Green 2023 kicks off on June 2 with 12 French film screenings in parks throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, through September.

French rapper Dadju is playing Irving Plaza in Manhattan on May 29. Tickets are still available. Can’t make it? Check out one of his popular songs, “Ambassadeur.”

Catherine Rickman
Managing Editor

Stay in touch! I’d love to hear from you: [email protected]





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