What Paris Is Really Like: What Not to Do When You Go to Paris

Whenever I hear a happy song about summer, I laugh. These songs are about sunny days and hanging out on the beach while wearing colorful bikinis. I have come across this meme on Twitter where girls are trying to have a ‘hot girl summer’.

Hot girl summer is a meme, originating with rapper Megan Thee Stallion, about feeling confident in who you are — and having fun and looking good while doing it. It often involves women posting selfies with summery swag and style using the caption (I heard it’s) hot girl summer. Dictionary.com

I have never experienced a summer like that.

I grew up in Delhi. For me, summers mean trying to survive temperatures that reach up to 50C. Americans, that’s 122F. It means trying to spend all your day in front of an air conditioner. Cooking is a nightmare because you have to be in the kitchen without a fan and be close to the hot flame. You don’t even want to hug anyone because everyone is covered in sweat.

Growing up, I was always jealous of people who got to actually enjoy summer. They weren’t trying to spend every moment of their day in front of an AC, they were going out and actually enjoying their day.

When I turned 21, I decided I was finally going to experience this hot girl summer. I didn’t plan it. I just woke up in the middle of the night and decided I was going to Paris. I was living in Edinburgh at the time so Paris wasn’t far. I had just received a bonus at work and had enough money to enjoy a six-day trip to the city of love.

Don't expect Paris to be what they show it in movies

Why did I choose to go to Paris?

Mostly because all the movies and TV shows told me it’s the most beautiful city in the world. Besides, I had just watched a movie a few days ago where a girl visits Paris after her boyfriend broke her heart. Prior to this trip, someone had broken my heart too. And I felt flaunting my trip on Instagram would be the best way to show him I was over him. (Even though I clearly wasn’t.)

It was a solo trip and I was going to have the best days of my life. I was going to wear cute dresses and frolic around the Eiffel tower kissing cute French guys. I was going to go to the Louvre and appreciate art. I was going to the Palace of Versailles and feel like the Queen of France myself.

However, there was a problem. Besides a few tourist attractions, I didn’t know anything about French culture. I was a bit nervous because this was my first trip to a country where people didn’t speak English. I only spoke two French words: Oui and Merci, both of them incorrectly.

When I reached Paris, it took me almost an hour at the Charles de Gaulle airport to figure out how to reach my hostel because I was stupid enough to not research how to do this before coming here. I also didn’t bring change with me, just straight up 50 Euro notes. When I reached my hostel, I realized that my phone charger wouldn’t work with the European outlets. Thankfully, I was sharing my room with people who were smarter than me. Two girls from Los Angeles, Savannah and Christy, were traveling around Europe for six weeks. They shared their chargers with me.

As I stepped outside the metro and had my first look at Paris, it reminded me of my summer in Delhi. It was hot and in the pre-corona days, extremely crowded.

Paris was very different from what I thought it would be. I thought I would feel amazing the moment I stepped outside the airport. I thought it was a special city that was going to cure me of my heartbreak and make me feel like the queen of the world. Perhaps like a girl in a Hollywood movie. However, I wasn’t feeling special at all. Paris felt…ordinary. Paris metro looked like Delhi metro. In fact, some stations were so dirty I couldn’t believe I was in the most beautiful city in the world.

It's possible to be miserable in Paris

On my first day, I decided to walk around the neighborhood. I walked around the streets of Montmartre and kept stepping in dog poop. I decided to go to a cafe to try some French cuisine and paid four times the price I usually paid for a sandwich.

I felt alone, so alone.

In the evening, I stood on the steps of Sacre Coeur hoping a cute French guy would talk to me. No one did.

On my second day of the trip, I decided I was going to turn things around. I was not going to allow myself to be miserable in Paris. I woke up early in the morning before my roommates were up. I wore my makeup and perfume. Everyone knows you need to look perfect when you go in search of a perfect life.

I stepped out and bought a bus ticket because I believed that if you really want to explore a city, you need to take the bus and not an underground metro without windows.

I stood cluelessly at the door of the bus wondering how to use my ticket. The three people before me had some kind of cards. “How do I…?” I trailed off in front of the driver. He pointed his finger next to his seat. I had no idea what he was trying to tell me.

I stood there for a second when a man behind me took the ticket from my hand and put it in the slot. “You OK?” he asked. I turned around and said ‘Merci’. It sounded like mercy.

I uploaded a few pictures on Instagram but my ex didn’t even like them. He hadn’t even viewed my story. I felt so defeated. To cheer me up, I booked myself on a free walking tour. As I was waiting for the tour to start, a man approached me.

“Hello, will you take a picture of me?” He spoke English in a very heavy accent.

“Sure,” I said.

“Are you traveling here?” he asked after I took his picture.

After a short casual conversation, he asked me to go on lunch with him. There was something wrong about the whole thing, I could feel it. I realized that this man didn’t have good intentions. “I have to go, I have booked myself on a tour,” I told him.

“A tour? They aren’t good. They don’t show you any good things and charge you money. Come with me, I will make a reservation at a private place.” He put his hand on my waist.

I moved away so that he couldn’t touch me. “Well, this one’s free. And I am looking forward to it.”

“Okay, you must give me your phone number before you go.” He took out his phone. I didn’t know how to get rid of him so I gave him a wrong number and before he could send me a WhatsApp text, I ran away. When I got back to my room, I told my roommates about the incident. Savannah and Christy took me out for gelato to cheer me up. They were the best part of my trip and we became friends very quickly after that.

The three of us pranced around the streets of Paris for the rest of my trip. We spent a day at Louvre discussing how overrated Mona Lisa was. We sat in front of the Eiffel tower and made fun of couples kissing in front of it. We went to the Palace of Versailles but got lost because we got on the wrong train. We went to a pub to watch a football match even though neither of us knew anything about football.

Paris is beautiful but not how they show it in movies

Savannah and Christy left a day before me so I was alone in Paris on the last day. I went back to Sacre Coeur but this time I didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t expect to bump into anyone. I no longer wanted to be the special girl. I sat alone on the steps looking at the city before me. It was beautiful, not in the way the movies had shown me, but beautiful nonetheless.

I realized I was stupid to think that I could live like a girl in a Hollywood movie. I realized that coming to Paris to spite my ex was a stupid idea. I should have come to Paris for me, and only me.

My trip ended and I went back home. It was a very different trip than I thought it would be. I did not become an entirely different person after this trip. I did not find a cute French boy I fell in love with. The trip to Paris didn’t change my life like these trips usually do in Hollywood movies. But it changed the way I looked at things. And that was enough.

I know I will go to Paris once again. And this time, I will do it for myself. I will learn a few sentences in French and will go to places that I actually want to go to, rather than what I have seen in TV shows and movies. The next time I go to Paris, I won’t go there looking for a hot girl summer. I will go there just for my kinda summer.


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Hi there! I am Vidhipssa. I will help you begin your journey toward embracing the true joys of life.