10 things you can do in Paris, but not in the US

Sure, you might have trouble getting last-minute reservations at, well, any restaurant here -- but there are still a ton of freedoms Parisians enjoy that Johnny America doesn't. Here's what you can do in the French capital but not the USA...

1. Enjoy your lunch hour (with wine) and not feel bad about it

No one is going to think you’re a lush for wining and dining at lunch hour. In fact, in some industries it’s practically encouraged. While the romanticized two-hour Parisian lunch is definitely giving way to faster options like takeaway salads and sandwiches, in Paris, taking time to eat is definitely important, and you’ll find that even in corporate culture people are encouraged to step away from their desk to get some food. And maybe a glass of wine.

Flickr/Graeme Maclean

2. Buy unpasteurized cheese

Granted not all unpasteurized cheese is illegal in the United States, but a lot of it is. For example, in the US, there is a 60-day age requirement for all cheeses made from raw milk, which means you can get older, harder cheeses, but not the younger, softer ones. Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that Camembert you’ve been loving on is actually an industrialized version made with pasteurized milk. So come to Paris where you can walk straight into your fromager and get any unpasteurized cheese that you like.

3. Wear Speedos to the public pool

No one will give you a second look if you’ve got Speedos on. In fact, you’ll probably elicit more looks if you’re swimming in board shorts. Or hell, you can even sport those Speedos to Paris-Plages if you’re feeling adventurous.

Cafe Dog
Wikimedia Commons/Almonroth

4. Bring your dog to the cafe, bar, or restaurant

The Public Health Department (or cities not named Portland) would probably lay the smackdown immediately if dogs were shacking up on the terraces of cafes in the US, but in Paris it’s perfectly normal. In fact, if a dog is sitting on a chair and it’s the only chair available, don’t expect its owner to give it up so that you can sit down.

5. Drink as a student… legally

The ability to purchase alcohol comes at the age of 18 in France, which means you will not be limited from trying all the Bordeaux you want on your study abroad program.

6. Buy books from real bookstores, forever

While Amazon is busy taking over every single bookstore ever opened in the US, in France, independent bookstores flourish. Why? Part of it is because since 1981, there has been a law that caps book discounts at only 5% below the publisher’s list price. That keeps big online retailers from winning out in terms of prices, and helps keep independent bookstores alive.

French Riviera

7. Be on the French Riviera drinking rosé by 10am

Sure, this is a little unfair, but it's worth mentioning. Thanks to the TGV, you can literally get to the other side of the country in only a matter of hours. Which means you get up early, grab a croissant, sit and read a magazine for a bit, and soon thereafter step off into sunshine.

8. Go to a British pub -- a real one

No, not one of those sh**ty expat pubs. It's as simple as getting yourself to Gare du Nord and buying a ticket for the Eurostar. You can be back in time for a late dinner in Paris.

Flickr/Jean-François Gornet

9. Get paid to bike to work

Yes, you read that right. France is currently in a six-month experiment paying people to bike to work. The government hopes the new scheme will boost commuting by 50%. The rest of us are just hoping that the experiment sticks around and becomes normal policy.

10. Go to a vineyard in the middle of the city

Want to check out some vines? Look no further than the vineyard in Montmartre. Dating back to 1932, the Clos Montmartre vineyard does in fact make its own wine with the grapes, although the production run is quite small.