As I embarked on my journey into France, I imagined what my interactions with the French would be like. I had heard rumors that the French are standoffish, that they think Americans are lazy and that they overall only speak of politics and food. However, after spending some social time with the French, I’ve come to learn they enjoy celebrating and getting loose as much as anyone else would.

As part of my time here in Paris, I am living with an older divorcee who shares my love of reading and shopping. Along the walls and floor of the apartment lay books, shoes and magazines reflecting decades of Parisian past. Apart from her commercial hobbies, “Madame” as I call her, spends her time socializing with friends. At various times, I have been invited to peek into her social clique as one of their own. Among the plays, art gallery openings and parties, one particular night stands out in my mind. After a night at the theatre with a few of Madame’s close friends, I was slipped an invitation to celebrate her friend Allan’s birthday with an aperitif, or a before-dinner drink and a night of dancing. When the night approached, I stood in front of my closet trying to figure out fashionable Parisian party attire. I finally settled on a baggy sweater with tight jeans and boots. After a short walk around the corner, Madame and I arrived at an apartment atop an old building near the Eiffel Tower. I was greeted at the door with bizou, the traditional French greeting of a kiss on each cheek. As I sipped my drink, Madame led me around the large apartment decorated with various paintings, finally watching the sunset behind the Eiffel Tower from the wrap-around terrace. Inside, I mingled with a variety of French people and munched on various kinds of meats, cheeses, baguettes and couscous appetizers.

As more guests arrived (and the more wine I sipped), I became more comfortable in utilizing my four quarters of French as I made the usual party small talk. However, this small talk was not the usual “oh what do you study” or “how do you like school.” Instead, I was bombarded with questions such as “do you think Obama can actually help your country?” and “is your economy really as bad as it seems?” I had heard the rumors that the French loved their politics, and I had already discussed plenty of issues with Madame, however I was not prepared to hold court on the future of my country, let alone in French. After the political debate cooled down, the next topic of interest was what ethnicity I was exactly. However, my answer that my family has been in the United States since the revolutionary times was not sufficient enough, for they wanted to know what European heritage I possessed. I replied English, French and Irish supposedly were the main ones, which they all found very intriguing. I quickly learned that the family’s apartment I was in stemmed from the French Revolutionary times, in which Allan’s wife’s family had been a part of the revolution. The portraits on the wall reflected the great, great, great, great, great, great, great-grandmother of Allan’s wife. She proudly showed me different family heirlooms from the revolution and beyond of her family’s history.

When it came time to sing Bonne Anniversaire, the family brought out not one, not two but three delicious cakes from the local bakery, in addition to plenty of bottles of dessert champagne. I chomped down on three pieces of cake during the time a German-born lady, who resembled many of the French models I’ve seen plastered on billboards in the Metro, told me her life story of immigrating to Paris from Germany, eventually ending with her current marriage. She spoke as if we were old friends, telling me what it is like to be a foreigner in Paris and even how to land a Parisian man.

Unfortunately, the night’s revels came to a halt. My time spent as “the American girl in a Parisian fairy tale” was over. As we walked home, I felt very thrilled after my glimpse into the private lives of the Parisians.