Yes, I promise, after this post I’ll stop with the Paris spam (or at least, maybe stop mentioning it as often!) but I thought I’d do a little review post talking about the city from a travellers perspective, a tourists perspective and the perspective of my first trip abroad as a lead traveller!
Going from just going on a holiday and my only responsibilities being making sure I bring enough pairs of socks, to being the one booking the train tickets, finding a suitable hotel, planning a sort of itinerary is quite a big leap and it’s daunting when someone turns to you in a foreign country!
It was a weirdly adult feeling and on the one hand, it was cool because I proved to myself that I had the freedom to go anywhere but on the other hand ew does that mean I’m an adult?
I’ve picked a few key things that I was nervous about or felt were a barrier whilst I was there and I’ll just have a little natter about each one, if you have any tips or advice for any of these let me know in the comments below or send me a message on Instagram!
t h e m e t r o
I was worried about transport around the city – I knew there was an underground-like system but having been to New York last year and gone the wrong way on the Subway, I wasn’t too sure how I would handle the metro. But I can’t speak more highly of it – using Google maps, it told me my final destination and what direction to be going in and we didn’t go the wrong way at all!
It’s definitely nicer and easier to understand than the London underground but would probably be much more difficult if I didn’t have Google maps on my phone.
It’s really reasonably priced, surprisingly easy to use (well, if you’re only wanting to buy single tickets and have Google maps!) and the ticket machines have lots of different languages to choose from!
And with that in mind…
t h e l a n g u a g e
Before going on this trip, I felt confident in my minimal English – if nothing else, I knew how to say “sorry, I only speak a little French, I am English!”. But we got out there and I froze – I suddenly felt like everyone was judging me and I didn’t want to get anything wrong so I didn’t feel confident enough to try.
After the first few interactions, I did get a bit braver but then in the city it only took my vague attempt at a ‘bonjour’ for anyone to start talking to me in English. What it taught me is that I really should have brushed up on some key phrases before I left, but actually – I remember more French than I thought and my biggest barrier was confidence!
The thing that really helped me was that I thought if I was working in London and someone came up to me and tried to speak English as a second language, I’d be pleased that they’d given it a go rather than them making me speak their language! I’m sure most of the people who worked in Paris felt the same, I just needed the confidence to try.
f o o d
Following the language barrier, the next thing I was more worried about after we got there, was ordering food. I’m quite a fussy eater anyway and I get a little bit anxious about the ingredients that might be used that aren’t necessarily listed on a menu or packaging (mayo in sandwiches is my worst enemy!).
On our first day, we got sandwiches from Lidl, the next day we had lunch at McDonalds and dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (where the menu was in English anyway), the next day was a bakery for pastries (we were getting a bit braver), back to McDonalds (because it was easier and we knew we’d like it, we’re both a lil fussy) and another Lidl dinner. It’s something I definitely want to work on for the next time I go to a non-English speaking country because I didn’t feel immersed in the culture and I did feel a little like I was cheating.
But it’s intimidating on so many fronts – the language, worrying about having to eat something I don’t like (or going hungry) and wondering whether the places we were going were commercial enough to have English speaking staff or if it was too rural. Granted, most of this is in my head but it was something that I now know bothers me and I need to be aware of and face if I want to try more authentic food.
So in conclusion – I think in terms of first time lead traveller, I’d probably have been better off picking somewhere that is predominantly English speaking for my first trip, however I feel marginally more prepared to go to other non-English speaking countries, especially as most people we had to interact with in Paris spoke English to a service level.
I’m already looking to book a trip to Amsterdam in July so any recommendations and top tips on learning key phrases in Dutch would be welcome please!
Thank you so much for reading,