30 ways Paris is different from the US

For an American in Paris for three months, French life was completely different. You can’t do one huge grocery  trip per week, live with only one pair of sheets, or survive without a printer (if you want to eat cheaply). Here are 30 ways that Paris is (surprisingly) different from the United States.

In the streets

Yes, indeed, French people do eat baguettes while walking down the street (and working).

How to eat a baguette

People zip around the city on scooters – motorized and non-motorized.

Scooters in Paris

Many stores are closed on Sundays (and France’s numerous holidays).


Streets are filled with buttery, bready, sweet wafts of goodness emanating from boulangeries.


The city has installed urinals (with no doors) to keep the streets clean.

Urinals in Paris


Like Asians, French people aren’t afraid to see where their food comes from – eating whole fish and snails, and buying chickens with the heads still on.

Fish in Paris

French people don’t snack often; snacking in the afternoon is normally reserved for kids.

Instead of going to mega grocery stores, Parisians visit a combination of small shops: a grocery store, boulangeriefromagerie, boucherie, etc.

Boulangerie in Paris

When you enter and exit a store, you’re expected to say hello and goodbye to the shopkeeper.

Boulangeries sell not just the regular macarons we know in the US, but grand macarons.

Big macaron

Parisians like to pick up fresh meats, cheese, and vegetables at local markets, which take place throughout the week.

markets in Paris

Markets in Paris

Markets in Paris

Markets in Paris


There’s no tipping in Paris – but don’t worry, the prices make up for it. If you want, you can leave some spare change for particularly good service.

French people love terrasses, and they’ll huddle outside under heat lamps (often smoking) even when it’s cold.

cafes in Paris

The prices differ depending on whether you eat at the counter or sitting down (or, sometimes, even outside).


Wine is a staple with restaurant meals.

Wine for French meals

Rose sellers often come into restaurants and try to sell you a bouquet while you’re eating.

Groupons are available, but you’ll be forced to print them out and show them to the waiter.

Groupon in Paris

At sushi restaurants, you have a choice between salty and sweet soy sauce.


Paris’s excellent metro system makes getting anywhere in the city easy, although it’s hot during the summer.

Paris metro map

Paris holds auditions for metro musicians, who are allowed to play in the stations only. Any musicians you see on the trains are renegades.

Music in Paris metro

Homeless people often board the trains and give a speech about their unfortunate circumstances. Then they walk around the cars asking for some change or a ticket restaurant (a restaurant voucher that French people get from their employers).

Lots of young Parisians jump the gates to avoid paying the fares. Only some get caught by metro police, who periodically check your tickets.

Jump the gates in Paris

If you don’t want to use the metro, France’s bikshare program (called Vélib) is a good bet.

Velib in Paris

Apartment living 

Most apartments have no dryer, so you’re forced to deal with drying racks and the stiff, cardboardy-ness of line-dried clothes.

How to dry clothes in Paris

The refrigerators are miniature.

Refrigerators in Paris

To save space, designers have invented mechanized beds that raise up into the ceiling.

Apartment size in Paris

Health care

Doctor visits are cheap, like $30 for a consultation or $80 for an ultrasound.

There are few (if any) pharmacy chains; most are little shops run by friendly pharmacists who can make small diagnoses and recommend medications.

Pharmacies in Paris


France has long been converted to the euro, but receipts still show the price in francs.

Credit cards with chips are the norm; you’ll get funny looks or confused expressions about American swipe cards (although they do work).

Like this post? Check out Cafés in Paris.