Parisian culture varies in several different ways from American culture. One of the biggest differences surrounds children and the way they get around the city, their schooling, and the way that they rebel as teenagers. Children who grow up in Paris have a very different outlook on life and expectations than those that grow up in the states. From transportation, academics, and social expectations, there are several differences.
Students learn how to get around the city at a very young age. You see young children going along the streets of Paris on small bikes or scooters. This is an easier way than walking all over the city. Children will also be on the metro with their parents. A few times I have seen parents ask their children which direction to go on the metro as they begin to teach them how to use public transportation. Occasionally, I have seen middle school aged students moving along the metro on their own as they exercise their independence as well.
In Paris, children can start out with Ecole Maternelle which would be similar to our Pre-school or Kindergarten. These children are aged 2-6 and they can be found not only playing but also beginning curriculum that includes reading and writing. Education starts for children at a young age and encourages their artistic and creative sides. The next age group is 6-11 and these children attend Ecole élémentaire. The curriculum for these children is very similar to other counties, but includes a foreign language which is typically English. This is something very different than in the states where language doesn’t typically become a requirement until high school. The following years from 11-15 students attend Collège. Students study many different subjects during this time including: French, mathematics, history, art, science, physical education, and a foreign language or two. Lycée is the next level of schooling for students aged 16-18. Here they continue their studies and have a huge focus on passing the baccalauréat exam in order to pass and not have to retake it the following year.
During all levels of schooling there isn’t a huge push for athletics in the school. Students find club sports outside of school to join since there aren’t any at school. There is also a greater focus on the arts as well as foreign language. Students are able to take multiple foreign language classes and are not just required to take a minimum of one or two years like it is in California. The days that student go to school vary as well. In the past, they would go to school Monday through Saturday with the exception on Wednesday. In the last couple of years, they have switched to only going to school Monday through Friday with the exception of Wednesday. The school day starts later than usual Southern California schools and the students can stay at school as late as 5:30 PM.
For teenagers in Paris they go through a rebellious period just like teens in the U.S. While alcohol is a typical rebellious habit in the states, smoking is what teens tend to do in this city. While passing by different schools around Paris you see students in groups outside of school smoking before class This is the way for these teens to rebel as they get older.
Growing up in this city is very different than what we’re used to at home, but as children grow up and learn their way around the city they become accustomed to it. There may be varying differences, but children are still constantly supported by their families and schools in Paris.