January 28, 2019 | By David Smith | Back to news


At the IES Center in Paris, there is an ongoing joke that the week the students arrive is the coldest of the semester. This semester, that statement held true again. In fact, it snowed for a couple of days this week, which is apparently pretty rare.

My friend Brent is posing in front of a statue at the Bourdelle Museum
Here, my friend Brent is posing in front of a statue at the Bourdelle Museum. The museum contains many of Antoine Bourdelle’s marble, plaster, and bronze statues, as well as the studio he created them in. It looks like Brent’s ancestor was the model for this one. Photo by Chase Devens.

My host mom listens to French radio during breakfast, and I heard them talking about the neige for the entire morning on the 21st. She informed me that people in France usually stay in to conserve warmth when it snows outside. They also make plenty of soup to combat the cold; we ate butternut squash and sweet potato soup that evening. I highly recommend it, even though it looks like mustard.

A bowl butternut squash and sweet potato soup
Soup is the pinnacle of Parisian winter comfort foods. It sure warmed me up.

Snow slows down traffic in Paris much more than it does in Wisconsin. The largest transition I’ve had to make so far is the commute. I’m not too far away from the IES Center by Parisian standards because my commute is normally less than 40 minutes by bus. However, during rush hour, bus trips can take much longer. Rush hour on the bus means being packed in like sardines with the added benefit of stop-and-go traffic. This leads to a true lack of personal space, which is something that Parisians normally respect. However, on public transport during rush hour, all bets are off.

After my daily morning commute, I end up at the IES Center for class. Classes this week consisted of intensive language training. My class only has nine students in it which means there’s no hiding from the professor. She says the best way to learn a language is by speaking it as much as possible, so that’s exactly what we do.

My professor also informs us of the social norms of Parisians. If you ever plan to spend time in Paris, I suggest you start practicing your bonjours now! It is the norm here to say bonjour to anyone you interact with. In fact, if you start talking to a French person without saying bonjour first, you will come off as rude. I’ve made that mistake a few times, and the looks I received were much colder than the snow we got this week.

I hope you have a great weekend! I’ll be back in February with more captivating content.

Au revoir,