So, when I first arrived in Paris, I was so ambitious about learning french. Now I think I've decided that I am ok "just getting by". Don't get me wrong, I think the French language is a beautiful thing and admire those who speak it fluently, especially the expats, but in this time in my life, it is just not a priority for me.
I realized that so many english speakers get by here without ever uttering a word of French and once I figured that out my life has been a zillion times easier. I would get anxious, think people were judging me (and they were) and started to hate being around them. Once I made the switch mentally, I have been so much happier here and having better experiences.
So, here's my guide to how to get away with as minimal french as possible.
FIND ENGLISH SPEAKING FRIENDS
Paris has one of the biggest expat communities of the world. Use your friend network and facebook network to see if there is anyone your friends can introduce you to. For me, that was one of the most successful avenues of meeting people I actually had something common with and wanted to spend my time with. The probability that you have more in common with these people is even greater because they are friends of friends. I've tried other networking sites, but honestly don't have the same success rate. I call it friend dating, and we all know how some really bad internet dates turn out.
Pro-Tip: If you choose to use a networking site, I would stick to University Alumni sites. DO NOT by any circumstance sign up for Internations. Their site is a scam and they make their money through hidden automatic renewal fees. Speaking from personal experience, it is not worth the subscription and they do not adhere to legal business practices.
LEARN THE BASICS
Even though I am not fluent in the language of love, I know enough to get around. I can have a conversation with a waiter at a restaurant, a salesperson at a store and small talk with a stranger. Saying that, I cannot have a full blown conversation with a french person because everyone speaks so fast. I am in their country so I'm not rude about it and I think that is the key. If they see you are trying, they respect it. They also usually switch to english when they see you are having trouble.
A dedicated section for language and key phrases is coming soon, so STAY TUNED!!!
Until then, here are some basics that will help you whether you are here for a longer term or visiting for a short period. Sorry phonetics are not included, but that is what Google Translate is for :)
Bonjour = Hello
Au Revoir = Goodbye
Bonsoir = Good evening (you can say this to greet people after 6pm)
S'il vous plait = Please
Merci beaucoup = Thank You very much
Où es? = Where is .....?
à bientot = See you soon
If you want to learn more phrases during your stay here, I highly recommend Collins Easy Learning French Conversation. It contains all the basics and you can have conversations like a real French person.
Pro-Tip: Always greet strangers, shop owners, restauranteurs with Bonjour Madame or Bonjour Monsieur depending on their gender. It is the proper way to greet someone here and this country is ALL about formalities. Believe me. it goes a long way.
JUST DON'T CARE
Honestly, the biggest thing with any language is your confidence level. Learning a new language is like being a kid in school again--you get nervous, you are unsure of yourself and you don't know if you are doing it right. Now just throw all those insecurities out of the window and just stop caring. I mean, who care is you are not saying it perfectly. You are trying and that's what matters. It doesn't need to be perfect. As long as you get your general message across, you are golden.
Pro-Tip: Have a glass of wine. It helps. My best french is spoken when I'm at dinner with friends and have had a glass of wine. Why you ask? Because inhibitions are down and the words flow more freely--stop thinking too hard and making your head hurt!