Within my first two weeks of living in France, a couple things have really surprised me! And only one of them is sorta a bummer! Check them out below.
1. The sun doesn't go down until 10:30pm (22:30) - and even then the city stays bright! When I moved to Paris I was expecting the humidity and the nightlife, but I wasn't expecting to see the sun late into the evening!
On one of my first nights here I was sitting at a cafe having un verre de vin (a glass of wine) as I watched the sun sink below the cityscape. I checked my watch and WHAT! it was 22:43 (10:43pm)... I couldn't believe my eyes.
No wonder the French stay up late drinking and hanging out at cafes! I know this has definitely affected my ability to go to sleep at any normal time - since 8:00pm looks like it could very well be 1:00pm. It's certainly been an adjustment.
2. French banks don't charge any withdrawal fees! I forgot to get some euros before I left the US and from experience, I knew that getting cash at airports or the exchange kiosks would be riddled with fees 💶 and horrible rates. So after checking into the Airbnb, I did some research and found out this lovely piece of news. As you might know, US ATMs charge an arm and a leg to get your own money out - anywhere from $2.95-$6.95 depending where you're at. So this was great and surprising news to read!
The only catch is that you need to go to a bank or a post office not an ATM like Euronet. Luckily there was a BNP bank ATM nearby so I quickly got some cash. At the time, I took out 40€ and it was going to charge my American bank $45. This was a little bit higher than the exchange rate at the time, but not by too much.
And now I have a Revolut bank account - so things should be even easier now. Stay tuned for my review on Revolut!
3. You can't use your public transit tickets to transfer from bus to train. This was a bummer to learn, and slightly embarrassing as I continued to try to use my ticket to get through the turnstile. When we got to France we bought a packet of 10 tickets to use on the Bus, Metro, RER (in Paris) and tram. I had read online that you could use the ticket to transfer, and that you had 90 minutes once you first validated your ticket.
Well one day I took the bus to the train station and tried to use my ticket for the transfer and ❌ it wouldn't let me through! I tried again hoping it was human error, but nope! I had to use a new ticket to get on the train (this was a bummer since my bus ride was less than ten minutes, so it was sort of a waste of money). I read online later after googling "can you use T+ tickets for transfers in Paris" that you can transfer with them - but you can't mix and match modes of transportation. It has to be bus > bus or train > train. My bus > train trip was not an option. (Another pro tip: you can't use your ticket for another train if you have to leave that station!)
All things considered though, these surprises have been mostly positive. And I'm excited to continue to learn more and more things as I spend the summer here in Paris.