Here are 100 things I learned while living in France.
1.) Black is the best color (or lack thereof).
2.) Expensive perfumes are expensive, yes, but they also give you a false sense of confidence. Which is extremely important if you are in high school. Or just in general, I suppose.
3.) If you’re having a bad day, Arctic Monkeys are the cure. Put Fluorescent Adolescent on.
4.) Read the newspaper. You can learn from adult’s mistakes.
5.) Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts even if you think they are stupid. They aren’t, and you’ll want to keep them. Write down dates: May 9th, September 28th, March 5th. Write down names: Sydney, Olivia, Greg, Tara. Write down words: black, cracked, glowing. It will be how you remember.
6.) Raspberries are the best desert.
7.) Never mail anything of vast importance in France. I repeat: never mail anything of vast importance in France.
8.) Buy shirts from concerts you go to. Especially if they’re black and oversized. You can sleep in them on stormy nights, and everything will seem alright.
9.) Missing your 2:37 p.m. train is okay sometimes. You can always catch the midnight one, and a lot can happen between 2:37 and midnight turns out.
10.) Lipstick is a good makeshift pen.
11.) Amélie is a lovely lovely movie. My favorite quote: « Si Amélie préfère vivre dans le rêve et rester une jeune fille introvertie, c’est son droit. Car rater sa vie est un droit inaliénable. » (« If Amélie wants to live in a dream and remain an introverted little girl, that is her right. Because to mess up one’s own life is an inalienable right. ») Genius.
12.) They don’t play french songs in french clothing stores. And that made me really sad for some reason.
13.) The people that keep in touch with you while you’re gone are the important ones.
14.) Carbonated water is an acquired taste. And once you’ve acquired it, its quite lovely.
15.) Don’t smoke. It is not romantic and quite addictive I hear.
16.) Don’t think you can get through life without a planner. You absolutely cannot. Buy one with purple flowers on it and use it every day.
17.) Take lots and lots of photos. Blurry photos, stupid photos, pretentious photos, black and white photos, funny photos, pointless photos. Lots of photos.
18.) It is very important to learn how to make macaroons if you live in France.
19.) It is very difficult to make macaroons.
20.) You need at least six playlists: a sleep playlist, a feels playlist, a running playlist, a people are stupid playlist, an I’m happy playlist, and an I’m sad playlist.
21.) In cathedrals you can pay 1 euro to light a candle and say a prayer. It’s worth it, and mine came true.
22.) French shoelaces are always ridiculously long. Always. Thus I learned how to quadruple knot my laces.
23.) Daisy chains aren’t that hard to make.
24.) 25 degrees Celsius = shorts or a skirt, 15 degrees Celsius = one jacket, 10 degrees Celsius = two jackets, 5 degrees Celsius = three or more jackets plus some mittens ideally.
25.) No more film by Essie is the best nail polish color.
26.) He’s not going to call you half the time. And thats alright. Go read a book or listen to the Postal Service or something.
27.) The Wednesday bus driver (line 5, direction Patton) had a girlfriend and she stood by the ticket machine up and down the route every morning just to talk to him. There are things like this in the world that give me hope.
28.) Lavender jam is so so good.
29.) In France they don’t use “quotes” they use « these weird things. »
30.) You can learn quite a bit from graffiti, actually. « Je suis sage femme. » « Its okey. » « J’etais une fois innocent. » « La beauté est dans la rue. » (I am wise woman, It’s okay/okey, I was once innocent, The beauty is in the street. )
31.) Try not to trip down an entire flight of stairs on the first day of school. (No I did not do this….)
32.) French Vogue is lovely.
33.) Saturday afternoon picnics are very necessary.
34.) Striped clothing is a wardrobe staple.
35.) Keep your coat pockets zipped on the Paris metro. People are horrible. And you will need your phone.
36.) Vampire weekend + Tuesdays = good
37.) If you don’t have a friend that buys you dark chocolate after a really really not okay day then you are hanging around the wrong people.
38.) Write letters. Lots of them. Remind people about things they might have forgotten.
39.) If you’re sick, don’t go to school. Get a bag of cough drops, a box of Kleenex, and watch Dirty Dancing.
40.) If you aren’t sick, but wish you were, go to school. You can’t hide forever and chances are they have already forgotten about it.
41.) Befriend the neighbor’s cat.
42.) Always study for math tests. You will thank yourself when you finish 10 minutes early and don’t have to run to catch the bus.
43.) Make lists. Lots of lists. They make everything seem more manageable.
44.) It’s okay to get addicted to coffee as long as you have a steady supply of it.
45.) At the Centre Pompidou (a big museum in Paris) there was this one exhibition that I will never forget. It was a big glass cabinet with plastic body parts on corresponding shelves, ( like an ear on the top shelf, a heart on the middle shelf, etc.) and I don’t know it just reminded me that we’re all just collections of white twigs and sticky red stuff.
46.) There is really nothing better than looking at city lights after midnight.
47.) French paper is weird. There are so many lines.
48.) Friday afternoon tea with that girl you sit next to in history class is just what you need sometimes.
49.) Sometimes people dip empty words in sugar and its so sweet until you bite down and there’s nothing. Just be careful, I guess.
50.) It is so important to learn another language. And when you kind of have it down, don’t stop speaking it. Tell the man who sells flowers on the corner you hope he’s happy. Ask a stranger directions to a place you already know how to get to just to see if you understand what she’s saying. Tell the girl on the bus you like her shoes.
51.) Fountain pens are so cool and everyone needs one.
52.) If you’re bored, call a friend and go for a walk downtown. You can talk about The Drums and get coffee.
53.) Seeing movies in foreign languages is always an intimidating but rewarding experience. (i.e. the Yves Saint Laurent movie)
54.) Always have a book to read on the bus. I recommend The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
55.) Color code stuff. Its easier and prettier that way.
56.) French frozen yogurt is weird but French normal yogurt is the best thing ever.
57.) « Do I Wanna Know » (Arctic Monkeys), « We Looked Like Giants » (Death Cab for Cutie), « Countdown » (Phoenix) and « Handshake » (Two Door Cinema Club) were always what I needed. And still need sometimes.
58.) Le Marais is really hard to find.
59.) At Christmas time, French cities will twirl lights into trees and entire streets will glow. It’s magic.
60.) The House of Bones in Barcelona was weird cause I could somehow relate to it. A fragile assembly of bones and kaleidoscopic glass. Yeah that sounds familiar.
61.) You can never have enough gum in your bag.
62.) Write poetry if you want to. Even if you think its stupid and that nobody will get it. You don’t have to show anyone and its quite therapeutic, promise.
63.) Learn how to forgive cause sometimes you are the one that needs to be forgiven.
64.) If its raining and your umbrella is broken its okay. Pretend you’re in a movie or something.
65.) Vintage french boutiques are so fantastic. They had the best sweaters for 14 euros.
66.) Your best friend might listen to Death Cab For Cutie too and have hair like silk, but don’t trust just anyone. People can be really really horrible turns out.
67.) Its okay to collapse into a muddled heap of purple lids and ripped tights sometimes. Just remember to get back up.
68.) Oversized blue sweatshirts + chamomile tea + french movies = a good Friday night.
69.) Make an « I’m having a bad day » folder on your computer with stupid photos and beautiful quotes and old memories. It will make you feel better when you need it.
70.) He doesn’t care. Not enough to tell the truth at least.
71.) The Paris metro stops working at 3 am.
72.) They say cities are ugly. Grey concrete and billowing smoke. But I’ve never been to cities more beautiful than the ones I found in France. There was nothing ugly about the swirling banisters and there was nothing, nothing ugly about the blushing people.
73.) Collapsing onto stairs in a fancy restaurant with your best friend because of something ridiculously funny is totally fine.
74.) Buy yourself a pair of French heeled boots. In black obviously. It is extremely important that you own some.
75.) You will always feel 100x better after a run.
76.) Go to modern art exhibitions on Thursday evenings. You will love feeling lost and nostalgic.
77.) There’s no such thing as too much black eyeliner in France. That being said French teenagers are horrible at putting on mascara.
78.) Always have makeup wipes, chapstick, and bobby pins in your bag.
79.) Fall blurs into winter blurs into spring blurs into goodbyes.
80.) Throwing rocks into the sea is so fun. They make quite satisfying sloshes.
81.) Sydney is a really, really good person. She’s a sister to me. She always told me the truth. And she told me today (about our future apartment): « I’m thinking maybe we’ll change our plans, and instead of living in Brooklyn, we’ll get a really cute studio apartment in Manhattan on one of the top floors of a skyrise. We’ll have shampoo that smells like angels, a really nice shower curtain, just to spite the French, and a window overlooking the coffee shops with wifi that we’ll never need car nous aurons notre propre réseau internet (cause we’ll have our own wifi network).
82.) Phoenix will change your life. I’m not kidding. Go download all of their albums if you have not already. Everything is Everything.
83.) Cut the people that made you hurt out of your life. They’re poison and you don’t need any more of that running through your veins. I’m not going to call sorry.
84.) « Le succès a tout prix. » Success is the best form of revenge.
85.) Pretzel thins dipped in Nutella are the best thing to eat on Saturdays. Sydney can back me up on this.
86.) Making French friends isn’t easy but once you breach the frosty, forbidding exterior most French teenagers seem to posses, your efforts will be rewarded. Marie, I miss you and thanks for giving me a hug that one day I was not okay. I nearly cried when you did.
87.) Nobody wears berets there.
88.) If you’re angry find your best friend and a place to shout-sing Avril Lavigne at the top of both of your lungs. It makes it better; I promise.
89.) Buy the dress. It makes your skin glow. It makes you look like you don’t care what they were saying about you after school on Wednesday.
90.) When you ride the bus, look around you. At the business man always glancing at his wristwatch. At the school girl smearing on lipstick on the 7:14 route. At the woman in the yellow coat always reading. You can learn so much about the way people work.
91.) Bookstores are the same in every country. Lots of books and smart people and the smell of ink.
92.) Don’t be intimidated by the girl who is already fluent in French. She is one of the most kindhearted people you will probably ever meet and you can learn a lot from her (not just how to conjugate verbs – real stuff too).
93.) Sad and happy aren’t always black and white. Rain isn’t something that only exists in nature and the same goes for sunshine.
94.) Salvador Dalí was deathly afraid of grasshoppers.
95.) People will tell you that the Mona Lisa is too small and encased behind 2 inches of glass. But aren’t we all. And I hope to master her mysterious smile someday.
96.) If you make a best friend that lives in New York, be prepared to miss her horribly when it’s all over.
97.) Socialist government = no sales tax.
98.) People are so so fragile. They’re just bones and you have to be careful (see 45, 60).
99.) Don’t wear high heeled shoes out to dinner even if you are trying to be classy. Your arches will sting and you won’t be able to walk home without wobbling.
100.) Somewhere in the blur of blue lights, sticky people and rainy weeknights, you will find a home in France. And leaving it will break your heart. I learned that it is just as easy to fall in love with a place as it is to fall in love with people.
XX, The Girl in the Little Black Dress
P.S. Listen to this song: Down By The Water – The Drums
P.P.S. Comment which of these (if any) made sense to you.