Not A Tourist: Acting Like A Local On Your Paris Internship

Summer Internship Paris

Not A Tourist: Acting Like A Local On Your Paris Internship

POV: You’ve scored an internship in Paris this summer. Not only is Paris the epicenter of European beauty, it also has an extremely laid back pace of life. Often you hear of Parisians being able to sniff out foreigners with ease, frequently slipping into English so as to stop the other person from pitifully attempting French. While many cultures covet the Parisian vibe of nonchalance and ease, it can be difficult to replicate. While we might not be able to help you become a fully fledged Parisian, we can help you navigate away from the easiest giveaways that you’re a tourist. 

To best prepare for your internship, it’s important to spend some time researching how best to integrate into the lifestyle. Lucky for you, we’ve interviewed a real live Parisian. Meet Ilona Demeure. Ilona is a self proclaimed “expert” on all things Parisian culture- she’s native to Paris, so she better be! We took Ilona through some of our more pressing questions about Paris and its culture to help set you up for success.

First things first, I asked Ilona to tell me what are the quickest things she notices on the street that identify a non-Parisian. 

“Speaking english.”

While that isn’t exactly the most mind blowing observation, it does reinforce the importance of learning the language. Of course, no one expects you to magically become fluent in French overnight. Instead, come to France with the basics in mind. Spend some time prepping with Duolingo, or watch films in French. The internet provides countless ways to pick up a language, so spend some time giving yourself the general lay of the land. While you certainly don’t have to stop speaking English in public, it might be nice to show that you’ve entered a different country with some background research. It shows a level of respect that will translate well as you intern in Paris.

When asked about attire, Ilona excitedly exclaimed,

“Ah! Foreign attire is usually more relaxed. We do not wear flip flops nor do we often wear shorts. We dress for the weather we are currently having, not the season alone necessarily. And NO berets! We don’t ever wear those.”

 Paris Internship
Paris is often lauded for their chic fashionsense, so now is a great time to find some great classic and neutral pieces for your internship in Paris. “No uggs or North Face Fleeces,” says Ilona.  Especially in the workplace, having outfits that are simple, clean, and polished will help you blend in while also keeping you comfortable and professional.  You can absolutely keep these pieces and utilize them in your wardrobe upon returning home from your internship as well, since Parisian style seems to be coveted across many cultures and countries. 

We’ve selected your outfit. Now it’s off to work! Ilona let us know that the French timeline is a bit different than other countries as it pertains to the workplace. No need to arrive early to work during your Paris internship- it is normal to arrive either at or slightly after your start time. While in the US we tend to arrive 15 to even 30 minutes early, the French see this as a waste of your precious free time. On the contrary, Ilona mentioned that the French become very timely when it comes to leaving for the day. While she said in Paris this occasionally is a bit different, most French people leave at the end of work time and not more than a few moments after. “I like to have a social life,” Ilona said with a shrug when asked about this. For your internship, it’s important to display respect for the company by arriving on time, but don’t think you’ll be getting any brownie points for arriving early or leaving late. You’ll only stand out further as a foreigner. 

Ilona also lamented to us about how detrimental it is to take your meal times seriously, if you want to come across as Parisian. It is typical for workers to take 1 to even 2 hours for lunch, eating slowly and spending time with coworkers in an on-office environment. Ilona let us know that eating at your desk is seen as sinful and will definitely mark you as non-Parisian. During your Paris internship, eat your lunch/dinner slow and enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of streets. When you’re ready to pay, you’ll have to let your waiter know, don’t expect them to give you the check on their own. 

I asked if there was anything else I was missing that quickly  identified someone as a foreigner and Ilona jokingly replied:
“When at a restaurant or bar, if someone isn’t smoking.”

While she was kidding, it’s true that the culture surrounding smoking cigarettes is very different than other countries, specifically the United States. In the States we have a heavy stigma surrounding smoking, but in Paris it is considered the norm. Now there is absolutely no reason to start smoking if you don’t already. Acting like a local does NOT need to go that far. Instead, simply be prepared for lots of cigarettes, and maybe even try to keep a lighter on you to offer to those around you. Try not to complain if someone is smoking near you in a cafe or restaurant. While on your Paris internship, try to remember that you are a guest in the country, and that they may very well do things you don’t agree with. 

Armed with Ilona’s advice, you’re now ready to embark on a journey to Paris for your internship. While it can show an appreciation and respect for another culture when you try to adhere to its various styles, expectations and cultural norms – don’t be disheartened if someone points out that you aren’t Parisian. At the end of the day, you are! So do your best to be respectful and then enjoy soaking up the city of lights. 

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