It’s week nine for me here in Paris and, at this point, I essentially have Yelp memorized and every clothing store categorized from “I could buy one thing here and just not eat for a week” to “walk past it briskly to avoid eye contact with the storekeeper that knows you could never buy that $1,000 tank top.” What I don’t have — and what the internet fails to truly provide — is a way to find out where non-Michelin starred locals actually go.
That is, until I joined Tinder: the Unlikely Hero.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking and no, I didn’t join for a taste of Parisian romance (trust me, I’m already in a very serious relationship with the nutella crêpe street vendors on every corner). A good friend of mine in Paris told me that she had been maintaining a couple of chats on Tinder and that I should try it out. Back in the U.S., I laughed unapologetically at my friends that used this infamous hook-up app. Here, however, I figured that I could use the app as a way to connect with Parisians in a purely conversational sense. Flash forward to today and I have actually managed to have conversations with a couple of cool Parisians that last longer than the time it takes for the boulanger to take my order. Sure, I’ve had to ignore a few Pierres and Theos that are overly aggressive (I already have one marriage proposal), but in return I get to ask a bunch of locals what their favorite food places, bars, clubs, markets, and secret places in Paris are. Granted, some of them leave after I tell them that I’m just using the app for their recommendations only; but hey, I have an entire seemingly never-ending database of Tinder men to swiftly swipe right and replace them.
I’m not entirely sure how well established Tinder is in other countries, but I think it may be a very useful tool in any new country. For me, and for Paris specifically, I find that my favorite part about it is the safety aspect. It is rare to be able to get a French girl to give you the time of day, so I generally have to rely on men as my source of communication with locals. That being said, I was wary when my French teacher told us on the first week that “catcalling” (draguer) is the second national sport in France; nowadays, considering that I get harassed in the streets on a daily basis and that Parisians in bars take any form of talking to them as an open invitation to touch you, I feel very comforted by the perfect amount of distance my screen gives me.
Another plus: you get to practice having conversations in whatever language you’re learning! In person I usually have to switch to English when I don’t know the word that I’m trying to say just to facilitate the conversation. On Tinder, I can actually go look up the words I don’t know or don’t understand and, voilà: real world learning. Bonus: I’ve even picked up a few slang phrases that my formal French teacher would have never taught me.
The moral of the story is: going abroad means (reasonably) stepping out of your comfort zone. In my case, that means joining an app that I previously scoffed at in America. Yelp, trip advisor, and travel blogs can only tell you so much. Whatever other resources you can use to make the most of your time (and money), use them. [Insert some sentence about “finding yourself” here].