Over the past week I’ve done a lot of shopping. Wait, let me rephrase that: I’ve done a lot of walking around stores while others make purchases. I’ve already written posts on two of the most famous department stores in Paris (both of which you already know were way out of my price range) but I don’t want you to think that Paris is all about fancy department stores with overpriced designer items. Not all Parisians can afford to shop at these places just like not all New Yorkers spend their afternoons browsing Fifth Avenue. So where do the regular guys go? It is actually pretty similar to back home, they go to big box stores, shopping malls, outlet stores, etc.
Last weekend I accompanied my host parents Agnès and Manuel to the electronics store to pick up a heater for the new cinema in the basement. Not exactly Best Buy, but pretty darn close. Located in a typical suburban area flanked by McDonald’s and Starbucks, we had to fight for a premium parking spot just like everybody else. This would not have been the case if we were shopping across the street at Leroy Merlin instead. The French counterpart to Lowe’s or Home Depot, this giant home improvement store features its own parking garage. I thought that was incredible to see out in the suburbs, but I guess we are still just outside of Paris and land is at a premium.
I felt right at home inside the electronics store when I heard Taylor Swift blaring from the surround sound. It was enjoyable to walk around and see some different products than we have at home. There was, however, one area that interested me most and these products were no different than in the States. Beside all the tall, skinny traditional European refrigerators was an entire section of réfrigérateur Américain devoted to the Parisians who agree with our general American Bigger is Better mentality. I honestly think you could super-size anything they have here and then give it the “Américain” adjective. American coffees are bigger, refrigerators are bigger, cars are bigger, food is bigger, people are bigger…
On that note, I found out yesterday when I went to my first French shopping mall that American sizes of clothing are much bigger. The equivalent size in France is about 2 sizes smaller. I know I have been eating a lot of bread and cheese but there is no way I have gained 2 sizes in less than a month. I was excited to finally be in stores that gave me the freedom to try clothes on. It’s not like I wasn’t allowed to try on 500 euro jeans before but why would you want to tease yourself like that? There is a great risk in browsing through stores that fit your budget. Before you know it, instead of browsing, you are buying. I went specifically with buying in mind but just had to remember that my suitcase was already 50 pounds on the way over! Literally no room for ANY purchases, but my shoe situation has declined so rapidly that a new comfortable, fashionable pair were absolutely necessary.
In Les 4 Temps shopping mall in Paris, I felt like I could have been in any shopping mall in the United States. Sure, many of the stores were different, but I did see Claire’s, Gap, Aldo, H&M and Foot Locker. In fact, my walk by Foot Locker garnered special attention to the fact that they had a Cleveland Cavaliers hat displayed in the window. Perhaps news hasn’t traveled to Paris yet that Lebron left and the Cavs stink?
Today’s shopping excursion was with Manuel and Agnès again. We went to La Vallée Village outlet stores located in Val d’Europe (love the name) near Euro Disney. And what was my experience like? Pretty much identical to outlet shopping in America except we say “Bonjour” when entering a store instead of “Hello”. Again, many of the stores were the same as back home and every radio is playing American pop music. Don’t plan to buy your Ralph Lauren and Coach in Paris though, outlet prices were even ridiculous compared with what you pay back home. Agnès said the entire area of Val d’Europe was designed for employees of Euro Disney and has an incredibly American feel.
It is nice to venture outside of the major tourist districts to see the places where “real” Parisians shop. But I have to admit I prefer the Paris tourist attractions that remain special because they are like nothing that we have back home.