While studying abroad, a group of friends and I went to Paris for a four-day weekend over Bastille Day, France’s national holiday. I was a little nervous about going to France because it was the first country I was going to where the national language is not English. I was worried that a lot of people we would run into would not speak English and it would be hard to get around. I had also heard a stereotype that many French people know English, but will not be willing to speak English with Americans. However, once we got to Paris, I had a very different experience. Most people I ran into spoke English and were very willing to speak English with us. On the train from London to Paris, we were practicing some common phrases in French and a lady sitting next to us helped us by critiquing our pronunciation. In the end, I didn’t have a single negative experience speaking with local French people.
Another thing I was surprised about was the French people’s attitude towards Bastille Day. I expected them to celebrate like how many Americans celebrate Independence Day, however, the celebrated much differently. I was expecting Paris to be extremely crowded on Bastille Day, however, there wasn’t as many people walking around the city as I had expected. I felt like many French people stayed in their homes and were happy to have the day off because most of the people I saw wandering the streets were tourists. Additionally, when we watched the fireworks show by the Eiffel Tower that night, many of the onlookers were quiet and contemplative rather than loud and celebratory like many Americans would act on the Fourth of July. Ultimately, I appreciated the way the French celebrated Bastille Day and had a great time watching the fireworks show by the Eiffel Tower. I hope to visit Paris again sometime on Bastille Day.