Friday, 14 June 2013

The Paris Diary: La première semaine

Paris Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie - Avenue de Friedland
Despite the earlier mornings and later evenings, my first week in Paris has flown by! I'm settling in at work - the team are really friendly, the office culture is easy to pick up and the building I work in is amazing (let's just say I work on Avenue de Friedland... if you know Paris, and/or it's proximity to the Arc de Triomphe you'll know how posh it is!). I'm shadowing another student currently and she's been really kind to me as I'm still ironing out the kinks in working in an international business - the constant switches in language being my toughest task. My job comprises of scouting for news our clients will be interested in, so this means reading a lot of newspapers and websites (in both English and French) and sending out newsflashes and newsletters. Basically, lots of news!

Aside from work, I've been discovering a little more about the area I'm living in (I'd like to say Montmartre, but I'm two streets away from that... welcome to Barbès!). So far there's been no direct hassle, even with the "light" collision directly outside our flat, the roof of the shop next door falling down and the constant offering of fake cigarettes by illegal street vendors. Other than that, I've enjoyed a visit to the greasy friend chicken shop nearby (the legendary Chicken 75), then making homemade fried chicken with my flatmates and their friends and meeting the little old lady across the hall (even if that was because I sounded like I was bashing our front door down when my key got stuck...).

So, to round up this week, here are the top five things I've discovered so far:

1. The Distinction in Arrondissements
Steak and Chips
This is something I was warned about before I came to Paris, but it was more in reference to the architecture than anything else. In fact, it's pretty easy to discern which arrondissement you're in just by looking at the style of people's clothes and the price of a main meal in the surrounding restaurants. For example:

1st (Pont Neuf): blazers, tight jeans, patent leather brogues; 79,95 € for a three course meal and drinks
7th (Eiffel Tower): a random mix of foreign tourists and their clothes; 19,60 € for steak and chips with a soft drink
8th (Champs-Élysées): black shift dresses, silk scarfs, stillettos; 4,25 € for an M&S prawn mayo sandwich
18th (Barbès): cultural dress, socks and sandals; 6,50 € for a fried chicken meal

2. Work's Canteen
What a life saver! With my best intentions of avoiding the abovementioned expensive prawn mayo sandwiches, I brought in a packed lunch for my first day of work. No need! The canteen, serving quite a workforce, clearly benefits from economies of scale - 2,25 € for an amazing chicken and egg salad, with of course the usual free bread (bread is apparently free in all of France when served with a main meal), free carafes of mineral water, free salad dressings, olives, pickles etc. and only an extra 32 cents for a good amount of brie or a natural yoghurt. It's my new favourite place to eat.

3. The Weather
Even with England a stone's throw away, it's pretty clear the weather in Paris is definitely different. I'd say much more decisive - if you wake up and it's cloudy, it'll be grey skies all day. If you wake up and it's sunny, it'll be brilliantly bright all day.

4. The Architecture
A pretty obvious one, but it's worth a mention. Everywhere in Paris is beautiful. Everywhere within the 20 arrondissements is sculpted, carved and built with more flair than any other city I've been to.

5. Apples & Pears
The best foody thing I found this week was a cross between a yoghurt and a compote, in the form of mashed apples and pears. I think the closest thing in England is the same flavour of baby food, but here, it's actually acceptable to eat. And they're really, really tasty!


  1. Honestly Besma, a good compote is one of my most favourite things about France. There's a huge market for good compote in the UK - have you seen the pouch ones yet? Really good way to get some fruit on the go!

  2. So true! I don't know why we don't have them! I feel a business idea in the making...