“Happy Hour”. When in Paris, the phrase itself has little to do with emotions and more to do with the prices– cocktails and beers are half-priced, and that is what makes this block of time so joyful. Of course you are there with your friends or your work buddies, and that in itself is enjoyable. But cheap drinks are to a rocky day what sandpaper is to splintery wood.
Highlander Pub is nestled in the corner of Rue Nesle (Nestle ?) and Rue de Nevers, and it is the creme de la creme of pubs in Paris. After having finished a long sejour in Scotland, I can tell you that this place is not mimicking Scottish pubs–it is one. Tonight’s special is haggis, neeps, and tatties. For those of you that have not yet visited, haggis is the intestines and liver of a sheep minced up and served in a traditional Scottish pub bowl. ‘Neeps’ are turnips, and ‘tatties’ are mashed potatoes. Another notable about the Highlander is the Screaming Orgasm cocktail. Mixed with amaretto sour, Bailey’s Irish cream, and whipped cream, this drink’s name is most certainly not false advertising. Luckily, nobody but the bartender and me were in the pub to hear Rebecca’s bloodcurdling banshee shriek upon taking her first sip of this concoction. Screaming Orgasm is truly the nectar of the gods. If you have a fetish for grapefruit juice, try the Sea Breeze– it’s like a post-work out drink that gets you tipsy.
Enough about alcohol ! Paris is the city of culture, and bar culture is nothing to laugh at. Parisian etiquette is different from that of America’s in several ways. First of all, there is “la politesse”. Every time you walk into a public place in Paris (apart from a grocery store,) you are obligated to say “bonjour”. Every time you leave, you should say “Au revoir” or “Bonne journee”. This etiquette may seem trivial, but it is what forms the impressions of Americans in Paris. Therefore, it is crucial. Also, taxes and tipping do not exist here. The French economy is such that the tip (la pourboire) is included in the price, which means that the bartender or waiter is not working for tips. This means that they are not obligated to be friendly and helpful, customizing your order in any way they can. In fact, when you walk in to a restaurant or bar, the listed menu is seen as something recommended by the chef; therefore, it is the best possible combination, and to suggest changing it would be insulting, and it is just not done (unless the establishment is American or uncharacteristically flexible). That being said, I ordered a Blue Lagoon and was disgusted with the orange-flavored blue guck in my glass. I asked the friendly Irish barkeep to replace it and was pleased to find that he did not give me a hard time. Something about the Anglophones binds us like no other commonality ever could.
On dealing with creepers at bars….
The number one rule : Do not make eye contact. Even if this person grabs your face and forces you to look at them, do not make eye contact. Just make like the French women and assume that every unknown man that tries to speak to you is dangerous until he proves otherwise. If you let a man buy you a drink, you are more or less handing your night over to the person who’s footing the tab. I assure you that unless you can lose them in the crowd, that six euros would be better spent grabbing a cab home and getting some sleep rather than chatting to a lonely businessman that just got back from Thailand. In evading this type of situation, you might even save yourself from some STDs along the way.
Flowers are exceptional, and they are the manifestation of earth’s bounty. That being said, many of the people who sell flowers in Paris are exploiting the natural beauty of plants to make money for their underfed families. My advice ? Politely say “Non, merci” with a firm undertone and go pick some flowers at Jardin des Plantes instead. Not only will you get to explore a new part of the city, but you will avoid being harassed by these vendors as I once was in a bar in the 5th arrondissement. I am adamant in all things involving the word ‘no,’ and it’s sad that flowers had to be involved in such a basic dispute.
It’s normal to receive a check after one round of drinks. Drinks after Happy Hour are expensive, so bartenders don’t necessarily expect you to stick around for a second or third verre. However, if you want to order some more booze, you need to track down that barkeep and let her know you need her service, because she has better things to do than to wait on you and your friends– things like smoking her Lucky Strike, texting, and shooting the shit with the regulars…… “No tips, don’t care”.
Finally, I have read about Tiger Mom and I am pleased to say that although I am a first generation child, I cannot imagine myself ever giving kids such a hard time in life. It could be that my upbringing in America has softened me, or it could be that I’m just not meant to have children. Either way, I don’t think practicing the violin for six hours a day is conducive to a well-adjusted childhood. Every thing and concept is effective in moderation. It is much easier to not do something at all or to do something constantly than to do it in moderation, and that is the issue with so many movements today, including Tiger Mom’s parenting philosophy. Asian culture may value education about all else, but those that live in America know that in order to succeed, it’s not what you know that matters, it’s who you know. If you’re constantly confined indoors practicing your violin, drilling long division, or escaping into a work of fiction, you’re not going to form strong bonds with your peers. And let’s face it, if you’re an immigrant, your peers are the ones you’ll turn to later on in life, since your family doesn’t exactly have strong ties yet. So these kids may grow up to be violin prodigies, but will they ever learn to find their own path, make their own decisions, or acknowledge their own passions ? Doubtful. But at least they’ll have the right amount of self-discipline to study for the LSATs, get into law school, become lawyers, and make lots of money so that one day, their children can pursue their dreams like their parents never could.
What I would like to be is a responsible and courteous human being. Way too many people jump ahead to think about their weddings, their future children’s names, and adulthood in general without ever trying to focus on the present, thereby escaping any and all opportunities to improve themselves. What if off-white wedding dresses and posh baby names were put to the side, and we all just learned how to say ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ and how to apologize when we were wrong ? But that would be too hard, and the time wasted on that could be better spent studying, making money, or practicing that sacred violin. Someone once told me that 30 is the new 20. So why are so many people tweaking out about bridesmaid colors and centerpieces ? We should all just pax it and get on with our lives, spend that money on a killer honeymoon or something, anything other than goody bags and bouquets.