In 2021, I lived and explored Paris for around two weeks. When you are traveling, it is not unlikely that you might get shocked and surprised by some experiences. During those two weeks, I saw and experienced good things as well as some bad or negative things in Paris. In this blog post, I am sharing those experiences.
My Worst Experiences in Paris
These worse experiences may not that bad if you compare them with the bad things in other countries. However, it doesn’t take away the truth that these are still real problems in Paris and something that you could also face while in Paris.
I did not face any issues with refugees or illegal immigrants in Paris. However, it is quite obvious that there are lots of illegal immigrants in Paris. I was also surprised to see that a good portion of those illegal immigrants looked like from India or its neighboring countries. There might be more illegal immigrants from other regions such as the Middle East or Africa. But as an Indian, it was easier for me to spot people who looked like Indians.
I had a chance to interact and spend some time with a person who moved to France. He had a huge debt back home and hence escaped to Paris on a tourist visa and sought refugee status to build a better life there. He was working as a chef at a restaurant and was earning over EUR 2000 per month. But he is an exceptional case. He is a skilled person with years of experience working in restaurants.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with thousands of others who migrate in a similar fashion.
It is a known secret that many people go to Europe on a tourist or student visa to immigrate there. After seeing such people with my own eyes, I now understand why it is difficult for Indians to get a tourist visa to Schengen countries. Most of them end up becoming street sellers or beggars. Applying for a Schengen visa is one of the most difficult and stressful processes for an Indian touring Europe because of such people.
Homeless people and beggars can be seen in almost all metro stations entrances and busy streets in Paris. Most of them are illegal migrants and refugees from other nations.
There was one particular style of begging that stood out to me. They would lay down on their knees with their head touching the ground. The first time I saw it was in the middle of an underground pass to a metro platform and it caught me off guard. I thought someone had accidentally fallen down or got suddenly sick. But no one else there was giving any attention to them. I was confused by the lack of reaction from my fellow passengers. After I encountered a few more people in a similar pose, I figured out that they were beggars. Based on their attire, I think they are refugees from Syria or other middle eastern countries.
From what I hear, Paris is pretty nice to those who seek refuge there. However, it is very sad that despite all those efforts, there are still people out there who have to beg to earn a living.
Though Paris is a worldly city with people from all different cultures living together, it is very difficult to find people who even try to speak in English. Some shopkeepers won’t even consider that you’re a tourist who doesn’t understand or speak French.
Ironically, the worst incident related to the language barrier occurred at a shop run by Korean staff. I went there looking to buy Navigo weekly pass which gives easy access to the Paris transit system. I tried my best to communicate using hand gestures, screenshots from my phone, and even Google translate. But the shopkeeper kept blasting French at me – I was not understanding any of it.
Finally, a nice person in the queue stepped up and communicated what I was trying to say in French to the shopkeeper and I finally got what I wanted.
The Travel Adaptor Incident
This bad experience is partly due to my mistake. I thought I was all good with the travel adaptor that I carried. In Paris, I found out that the travel adaptor was crap and that it could not power my Macbook which I used for work.
I had a nightmare of a time running around on a rainy morning in Paris looking for a new travel adaptor. I went to over 8 different electronics shops looking to buy a travel adaptor that could plug in my Indian Macbook charger. But none of them was able to accept it. I wasted over 60 EUR buying those typical travel adaptors. I had already walked over 8 km and was very tired. I finally went to the main Apple store looking for a new Macbook Pro charger. However, the Apple store employee was overly enthusiastic in asking me to order it online and wait for 2 months to receive it oblivious to the that it was an unreasonable thing to suggest to someone in my situation. This experience reinforced my bad impression of Apple.
I had lost all hope and was left with no other option than to buy a brand new laptop to carry on with my work. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I found a little kiosk selling things for tourists in the middle of the street. As a last try, I checked out there and fortunately, they had a few travel adaptors that could accept my Indian Macbook charger. I was so relieved!
Sometimes in my life, you find what you want at the least expected time and place.
Scooters and Motorbikes are Too Noisy
Scooters and motorbikes in Paris are a joke! They are too loud for the speed they go and sound funny like a kid’s toy bike. I am not sure what model of scooters or bikes they were, but I would be embarrassed to ride them. Those bikes sound funny initially but eventually, you will find them annoying.
My Best Experiences in Paris
Though I mentioned a few bad things in Paris, ultimately, it is the following best experiences that keep Paris dear to my heart and makes me want to visit again.
Great Public Transportation System
Transportation is one of the biggest challenges when you are traveling alone. Uber and taxis are quite expensive and are not ideal. Hence, a public transportation system that is interconnected and is easy to use is very appreciated. Paris has that.
More importantly, Paris provides an affordable unlimited weekly travel pass for tourists. As a tourist, the last thing I want is to carry cash or learn about different fare rules for different types of transport systems. The Navigo Weekly Pass gives seamless unlimited access to RER, Train, Metro, and Bus networks in Paris and it costs only EUR 22.80. They also have a pretty impressive app that makes it easy to track the pass.
Free Access to Parks
As I understand, this is not an experience unique to Paris. Almost everywhere in Europe, there are free public parks where people can relax, go for a walk, or jog. The parks are very well maintained and clean. You can even walk on the green grass and nobody is going to shout at you.
There are lots of such parks in Paris and they all are quite colorful and lively and add to the vibe of Paris city.
Drivers Don’t Try to Run Over You
Coming from India, this is a concept that needs a little bit of time for me to adjust to every time I go aboard. The drivers in Paris are pretty patient and will stop to let you pass even if you have not stepped your foot on the zebra crossing yet.
Variety of Food Options
As I said earlier, Paris is a worldly city and has a mix of different cultures. This is reflected in the variety of restaurants and dishes in Paris – including Indian, Japanese, Turkish, Lebanese, etc.
I did not dare to try French restaurants since the last thing I want to experience while being hungry is to have awkward interactions trying to order food from French-speaking waiters. But I did try some French bakery shops and ate baguette.
Lots of Activities To Do
If you want to participate in activities that are unknown to typical tourists, Meetup.com is a great website. Since Paris is a worldly city with lots of ex-pats living in it, you can easily find events and activities conducted in English on the Meetup.com website.
My favorite activity in Paris was mushroom and chestnut hunting with David. I made a video about it which you can watch below.
I also got to interact with some local Parisians during this activity. I would love to participate in this activity again in 2022 and hopefully meet those people again. It would be great!
Paris is a beautiful city. I think it is my favorite city of all. I am not hesitant to admit that I wish to visit Paris every year like a pilgrim. There are lots of attractions and activities that I am yet to cover in Paris. Until then, I have all these memories and experiences to cherish.