Marie Antoinette’s Flowers

Over the windows of what was once Marie Antoinette’s bedroom hang curtains covered in flowers. They are plain flowers – little bluebells that dot the white background, broken up by lines of leafy roses. The chairs, bed, table, and fire cover all bear the same pattern. Bertrand Rondot, Head Curator of the Château of Versailles, gently lifted the cotton cover off one of the chairs. Beneath the drab sheet lay glowing embroidery, pink and red roses blooming into one another set onto a yellowing golden background.

Nearly every room of this little château, a twenty-minute walk from the main palace of Versailles, is covered in flowers. Yet flowers are historically absent from the rest of the gardens of Versailles. The endless parade of blooms at le Château du Petit Trianon distinguishes this modest castle as the private space of the grandiose figure of Marie Antoinette.

The little palace was originally built for the mistress of Louis XIV, Madame de Pompadour. She died before the end of its construction, so the mistress of Louis XV inaugurated the building. When Louis XV died suddenly, Louis XVI decided the home should go to the queen, a king’s beloved, not his mistress. He gave the château to his young wife, Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette spent a good part of her time in the Château du Petit Trianon. Louis XVI was committed to being available to his subjects, so the main palace became a public place during his reign. The queen would retreat to her private castle to spend time with her children, family, and friends. She even ordered that a hamlet or small village be built so that her children could experience life in the countryside.

The flowers that decorate nearly every inch of the museum today are mostly symbolic recreations, but these patterns intentionally evoke flowers of the original designs. The flowers in the house and in the garden are a constant symbol of the private nature of the château. “Here,” said Rondot, “it was a more private space, so it was not as formal as the main palace.” At le Petit Trianon, the Jardin Français did not have to adhere to the convenance, or convention, of flowerless public gardens.

If you look out the back window, you’ll see real flowers. In the Jardin Français, a long walkway leading up to the summer dining room building, rows of flower pots line long patches of grass. Some bulbs have yet to blossom, (it is not quite spring, after all,) but other rose stalks burst with red and white blooms.

The pots, unfortunately, are plastic. “Ugh! I don’t like it at all,” exclaimed Brondot, as he eyed the offensive containers.

In olden times, when kings lived in castles and queens lived in smaller ones to get a little peace and quiet, these pots were made of terra cotta. They served a special purpose: in the night, while guests of the château slept, servants switched out the pots. In the morning, guests would awake to an entirely new garden filled with new colors.

The whole house is a subtle ode to nature – “a very sophisticated type of nature,” specified Rondot. The French love to control that which otherwise grows freely. Whether it’s the Luxembourg gardens or a flower box on a Parisian terrace, the domination of nature is a French tradition. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the angular gardens of Versailles.

Yet this dominance is an act of love. When the economically and scientifically minded Louis XIV originally planned the small estate, he made sure there were plenty of orchards. The interior design is just a confirmation of this commitment to the cultivation of nature. “The ornaments are to remind visitors that it’s the land of flowers and fruits,” said Rondot.

Though history remembers Marie Antoinette with awe, anger, and humor, the flowers of le Petit Trianon highlight her personal tragedy. She lived in the public eye starting the day of her wedding at age fourteen. Until her death at age 39, le Château du Petit Trianon was her place to bloom in private.


It’s better (and worse) than you think: seeing politics from every side with Catherine Pégard

Madame Catherine Pégard has been on both sides of the French political stage, as both player and spectator, and she has some good news for us. “The best part of politics is better than you can imagine.” The next moment, though, she will quickly add, “but the bad part of politics is probably worse than you can imagine.”

You might come to this double-sided conclusion, too, if you had lived as many lives as Pégard. She has played the parts of the journalist, as the editor-in-chief of Le Point; the liaison between the journalist and the public figure, as the spokesperson for President Nicolas Sarkozy; and now, the figure that the journalist pursues. Madame Pégard is the President of the Château de Versailles. Everyone answers to her—curators, restorers, gardeners, fountaineers, security guards—and everyone depends on her, for finding resources, for communicating among staff, for maintaining the quality of the museums. She has a big job.

“President is president,” she says. “You have everything to do.” And when Pégard says “everything,” she is not exaggerating. By definition, she is head of a cultural institution; but Versailles is heavy with history, both a place to administrate and an idea to maintain. Pégard’s job description includes “keeping Versailles alive” and maintaining its role as the “history book of France.”

Pégard, luckily, has a way of making impossible jobs seem like simple tasks, a skill she traces back to her days as a journalist. France might be a big story for Versailles to tell, but she has told plenty of stories before.

“You have to tell what you know, and that’s it.” You might feel almost silly for asking such a strong woman and leader how she navigates complicated situations. She will tell you her approach with a blunt confidence that feels colored by years of experience and lessons learned.

“If you want to know somebody, you must go meet them,” she says of her time as a journalist. “You must know what you know, you must know what you are, you must know what they are.”

“Catherine made her reputation as being there–on the ground, over and over, year after year,” says Elaine Sciolino, former Paris bureau chief of The New York Times. “You build a reputation where you are respected, not only because of who you are as a person, but what you know.”

On the eve of the French presidential election, one might turn to people like Pégard for her take on what’s happening now, and what will happen next. Having led what she calls her “three lives,” she has a broader perspective than the people on the receiving end of media. After her experiences, she explains, “everything is more important. Everything is more colored.”

Pégard too, though, seems as uncertain about the upcoming election as everyone else. While she has more insight than most from her many political experiences, she cannot look to the past to answer who will win, or what will happen next.

“It’s very difficult, because I think we have never seen this before in France. I can’t believe it,” she said, faltering just a bit.

The most people can do, she explains, is to inform themselves and participate. “If I were a journalist,” she explains, “I’d try to follow the contestants, and try to explain what they do. Which is just what we can do.”

Although Madame Pégard cannot give an answer to the many questions about France’s political future, she is clear about the way the French should look for one. “We need to talk more about the past, not only the present,” says the President of France’s history book. “Because you are not the man you are at the moment. You are the man you were before.”

Mirror, Mirrors on the Wall

Inside Petit Trianon
Photo by Anhar Karim

Queen Marie Antoinette had cracked windows in her otherwise perfect home in Versailles.

Versailles places high on tourists’ hit lists when they come to France. So the main palace is, during normal operational hours, packed full with people from all over the world. But if you take a twenty-minute walk through the grounds and away from the main palace, you will find the much quieter area of the Petit Trianon. In the 1760s, esteemed architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel designed the small chateau for the then king Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour. However, as she died early, the chateau’s first real inhabitant was Louis XVI’s wife Queen Marie Antoinette.

A Chandelier restored to look historically accurate
Photo by Anhar Karim

Marie Antoinette used this small and ornate chateau as a quiet space to get away from the daily stresses of the public court life at Versailles.

“It was a nightmare to live in Versailles,” explains the Trianon’s chief curator and historical expert Bertrand Rondot. Even before the advent of the modern paparazzi, people were always watching the king and queen’s every move. So Marie Antoinette would retreat to this secluded home to relax. Because of this, Antoinette did a lot to make a home of her isolated hideaway. She had the initials of the old king removed almost everywhere and replaced them with her own initials, tried and failed to replace paintings she deemed too lewd, and even had a private theater made in which she could perform shows for her guests. The Queen of France had the imagination and the resources to make almost everything perfect. However, there is one thing she could not make perfect no matter how hard she tried.

If you stroll through the Petit Trianon, you will notice several rooms have large mirrors adorning nearly the full length of the walls. However, these mirrors always have a straight horizontal line running through them somewhere near the top. That is, these mirrors are actually two mirrors put together and made to look like one. But nevertheless the effect is to make it look like all of the mirrors have a crack running through them. So to the viewer all these mirrors look broken.

Notice the crack at the top of the mirror
Photo by Anhar Karim

Rondot explains that during the time of Marie Antoinette they did not have the technology to make wall size mirrors. And so, the solution was to make one mirror as tall as possible, and then to add a second one to make up for the difference (in the main palace’s Hall of Mirrors, the solution was to make several smaller parts to add together). Rondot says the split would have been less obvious at the time of Marie Antoinette because the damage of the years would not have made the divide greater. But still, after so meticulously ensuring perfection in every part of this small house, it is astonishing that even Marie Antoinette could not have perfect mirrors. It is astonishing that she may have walked around her luxurious home and passed by a series of apparently broken mirrors.

It is not difficult to imagine her moving from one room to another, regarding herself in one of the many mirrors, and then looking up to note the crack in it. This one imperfection, surrounded by hand crafted furniture and gold covered chandeliers, was maybe a reminder that no matter how hard she tried, she too was not perfect. And this would be a fitting thought. Because just as the head of the mirror is cut off from the main body, Marie Antoinette herself would soon find something similar happen to her.

Drama at the Petit Trianon

by Marissa Rosenberg-Carlson

The Queen’s theatre at the Petit Trianon

The Palace of Versailles is all about drama. It staged the grandeur of an absolute monarchy after Louis XIV made Versailles his chateau in 1682. It staged the tragedy of that same monarchy when French Revolutionary forces drove the royal family out of the chateau in 1789. For the hundred years in between, members of the royal family performed very public lives. “It was a nightmare to live at Versailles,” according to Bertrand Rondot, head curator of the Museum of the Château de Versailles. The world was always watching the drama.

But at the Petit Trianon, royal drama played out in private. The Petit Trianon lies just behind the main Château de Versailles. Originally built for the mistresses of Louis XV, it became Marie Antoinette’s private quarters when Louis XVI succeeded the throne in 1774. The Petit Trianon’s true center of drama was the Queen’s theatre.

Commissioned by Marie Antoinette in 1780, the theatre provided space for the Queen to indulge her passion for amateur opera. She designed this space just as she wished. “The Queen wanted things done quickly,” according to Rondot. Her craftsmen fashioned all the auditorium’s decorations from papier maché – “even the torches,” according to Rondot. The result is a space that is at once dazzling and delicate. Pastel blue walls temper gold statues. Marie Antoinette’s royal monogram curls into the vaulted ceiling. The forest set onstage creates an illusion of depth, inviting the audience’s gaze into its most intimate back corners. It’s easy to fall asleep on the auditorium’s dusty-blue velvet seats.

In her theatre, Marie Antoinette took private risks that were publicly prohibited. She commissioned contemporary works such as Barber of Seville, which premiered in here theatre in 1781. “The queen could be politically adventurous here, away from censorship in Paris. She could insert herself into contemporary life and culture,” said Rondot. The Queen even liked to switch up social roles in performance. She often played a servant, while a working-class artist played her.

Unlike in the main chateau, at the Petit Trianon the royal family didn’t have to answer to rumors about their private life. “No one had access,” said Rondot. During the French Revolution, a rumor spread that the one of the Queen’s opera sets was covered in diamonds. When revolutionary fighters came to seize it, they were humiliated to find that the “diamonds” were actually bits of broken glass.

The Petit Trianon is the only eighteenth-century theatre in France that remains intact and fully-functioning. But it no longer stages performances, and is closed to the public. Visitors may only see the auditorium through a glass door. Two hundred years later, the Queen’s theatre remains one of the château’s most luxurious secrets.



Telling the Story of Versailles

by Marissa Rosenberg-Carlson

To run Versailles, you have to be a journalist. Or so believes Catherine Pégard, the current president of the Château de Versailles, who spent most of her career as a political reporter. Her road to Versailles was uncommon. “In France, we aren’t used to having different lives. But I’m very lucky. This is my third life,” said Pégard in an interview with Princeton University students on Thursday. But Pégard feels the same qualities are required in journalism and at Versailles. “You must be curious and inventive,” she said. “You must know what [Versailles] is, understand what it is, and then you must tell the story,” she said.

Pégard began her journalistic career at age twenty-three in 1977. In 1982, she started writing for the weekly political magazine Le Point, of which she became editor-in-chief in 1995. When right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy became president in 2007, he appointed her one of his advisors, she gave up journalism but kept its mindset. She saw herself as a “journalist for the President.” She observed politics closely, said exactly what she thought, and did not toe the party line. People criticized her for collaborating with politicians, but she insisted she remained independent. “I disagree with journalists who say, ‘I never have lunch with politicians because I don’t want to be influenced by them.’ That means you are weak. If you are strong enough, you can eat with anybody and think what you want,” she said.

When President Sarkozy nominated her to head Versailles in 2011, she brought this journalistic independence with her. Nominations to Versailles are usually political. Pégard’s was not. In 2016, Socialist President François Hollande took an uncommonly bipartisan stance to renew her contract. Entrusted with continuing to tell the story of Versailles, Pégard has sought to highlight how “Versailles is the root of everything in France.” The palace holds archives of political meetings, ceremonies, theater, painting, architecture, gardening, wars and revolutions. Still, history is not enough. In Pégard’s view, “you must think of what it was, but also what it is for the people of today. You can’t be in a dead museum.”

In Pégard’s journalistic mind, Versailles is a living thing. “Everything changes here depending on the light, depending on the season,” she said. The Hall of Mirrors is not her favorite place. “But if you are there at six o’clock in the afternoon when the light is pink, nothing else is like that,” she said. The Petit Trianon isn’t her favorite place, either. “But when you are alone in the theater of Marie Antoinette, you can imagine what she was when she was in the scene,” she said.

Just as Pégard has discovered beautiful moments at Versailles, she also humbles herself before the things she hasn’t yet discovered. She thinks she learned that from journalism. “I was not supposed to come here. When I arrived at Versailles, I didn’t know Versailles. I have everything to learn about it, and I am not finished,” she said. She probably never will be.

Pégard, the Forever Journalist

By Iris Samuels

If Versailles were the history book of France, the current chapter would tell the story of a strong woman. The palace’s current president, Catherine Pégard, has the soul of a journalist, the mind of a politician and a fierce pride in her French identity. Former editor of weekly French magazine Le Point, she now holds a position that some consider second to the minister of culture in France.

“Usually if you’re a journalist, you stay a journalist,” she said, explaining her “bizarre” professional trajectory. She joined Le Point in 1982 as a 28-year-old political journalist covering the French parliament.

The beginning of her career brought a serendipitous meeting with a young politician named Nicolas Sarkozy. Then mayor of the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Sarkozy would become the key to Pégard’s political path. “I followed him through his entire career,” Pégard said. When Sarkozy became president of France in 2007, he asked her to join him as his political advisor. “I always tried to tell him the truth,” Pégard said, explaining how she earned his trust.

Once Pégard left journalism, she knew she would not go back. “She became loyal to the government,” said Elaine Sciolino, former bureau chief for the New York Times in Paris. “She was always correct with us [journalists].”

But Pégard maintains that even after she left professional journalism, her journalistic skills remained useful. “When you are a journalist you have to tell what you know,” she explained. “I was a journalist for the president.”

In 2011, Sarkozy nominated her for the role of President of Versailles. It is often considered a political nomination, but when François Hollande, a socialist candidate, beat Sarkozy, he renewed Pégard’s appointment. “I’m very proud of that,” she said. It was proof that she is good at her job.

Now she lives in Versailles, and oversees more than 7.5 million annual visitors. “You need to be a journalist in order to be here,” she said, sitting in a conference room in the Grand Commun, an office building outside the main gates of the Château de Versailles. “You must tell a story.”

With the classic French grace and a thoughtful expression, Pégard seemed uncomfortable sharing details of her personal life, but was eager to share lessons from her professional life. Throughout her career, she encountered challenges as a woman in power. “But it’s easier now,” she said. “The most important things have been done,” she added, explaining that the French workforce is far more equal now than in the past. “There are more women everywhere.”

Victor Hugo once described Versailles as the binding to the history book of France. Pégard maintained that this link is still relevant. She is now overseeing the creation of exhibits that travel as far as Tokyo and New York. The history of Versailles still charms and intrigues crowds around the world.

Pégard herself still enjoys sitting alone in the theater of Marie Antoinette, or visiting the famous Hall of Mirrors during sunset, when the room takes on a lovely shade of pink. “You must always think about what it was, but also what it is today.”

In Petit Trianon, a Respite from the Hordes

By Iris Samuels

If you have ever seen a mob of paparazzi surround a celebrity, you know what it was like to live in Versailles during the 18th century. While cameras weren’t invented yet, the grand palace was a place where merchants and architects, locals and foreigners, could all catch a glimpse of royalty. Versailles was a pilgrimage of splendid voyeurism.

“It was not a locked fortress,” said Bertrand Rondot, head curator of the Museum of the Château de Versailles, describing the main palace of Versailles. “Anyone could visit.”

For this reason, Marie Antoinette needed a hideaway. Today, she is known for her exorbitant spending and opulent lifestyle, but even the most indulgent queens need the occasional moment of solitude.

Unlike the grand palace, the Petit Trianon was conceived as a place to “escape the court life,” Rondot explained.

Marie Antoinette moved into Petit Trianon as a new queen in 1774, when Louis XVI assumed the role of King. Originally, it was built in 1768 for the mistress of Louis XV. Tucked away on the northern side of the Versailles complex, it was distant enough from the main Château to provide seclusion and intimacy.

Today, the Petit Trianon fulfills much of the same role it did when Marie Antoinette was its main resident. Unlike the main Château, where one has to push and shove through hordes of eager tourists in order to catch a glimpse of the stately furniture and murals, the Petit Trianon provides a quiet place for visitors to explore French royalty.

From dining room to bedroom, from billiards room to the basement kitchen, Petit Trianon provides a place where patrons can stroll through ornate rooms under the watchful eye of Marie Antoinette’s bust, enjoy the company of close friends, and for just a few moments daydream about the lives of kings and queens.

Modern day voyeurism in the Château de Versailles. (Iris Samuels)

A Taste for the Local

By: Katie Petersen

At 4 a.m., as boxes of fish were transported through the warehouse and the display areas along the main corridor sat largely empty, it appeared that the merchants were preparing to open the fish market. But no: “They’re wrapping up,” informed Bérengère Banquey, head of Public Affairs and Governance for Marche de Rungis, the largest wholesale market in the world. The wholesale buyers of Paris have already purchased their fish for the day, and it is now en route to cafés, restaurants, and seafood sellers all over the city.

Rungis, which sits on the outskirts of Paris now, was housed in the center of the city under the name Les Halles in the 12th century. It was called the “Belly of Paris” by Émile Zola in his novel Le Ventre de Paris, set in the 18th century. With the rise of the supermarket in the 20th century, the central market was declared unhealthy, disorganized, and too small. It was moved to its current location in the beginning of the seventies, according to Banquey. The market is now largely hidden from public view, and all visitors must have a special pass to enter the facilities. Today, people miss being able to see the sources of their food, says Joanna Beaufoy, a research assistant in Paris.

Supermarkets, therefore, aren’t the place to shop for many. “As a Parisian, you would never buy your produce from the supermarket, because it’s just plain bad and expensive compared to so many other options,” Beaufoy claims.

Rungis distributes mostly to smaller sellers, like independent produce stands. The supermarkets have their own distribution markets, Banquey says. Sometimes, they pay to use the storage facilities at Rungis, and even purchase food from the market. But not often.

For the most part, Banquey says, “you come to Rungis if you’re a restaurant, and you want to have really good food.”

The model that Rungis operates on is favorable for quality, according to Banquey. She explains, “it’s about what the consumer wants to buy instead of what the supermarket wants to sell.”

This also leads to greater traceability. The market was not subjected to the 2013 horse meat scandal, in which many products labeled as beef were found to in fact contain horse, because, as Banquey says, “the process is completely transparent.”

A butcher in the veal district confirmed Banquey. “Traceability,” he says, “is to follow the veal from the slaughterhouse to the customer.” The butcher not only knows from where his meat is sourced, but plays an active role in preparing it. He visits farms, examines livestock, and notifies farmers of what products he’s planning on selling six months in advance.

He says the model also leads to greater customer involvement. “Sometimes the customer wants a special cut, and we cut what they need.”

Some (Americans) might be put off by the transparency in food sources – the enthusiastic butchers surrounded by fresh, red meat. However, when asked among the hanging carcasses if she was shocked by anything when she began working at Rungis, Banquey answered simply: “No.”

She allowed, “But I’m French.”

Inside Rungis, a strange new (male?) world

In the early hours of the morning, while the rest of Paris is still asleep, a small city on the outskirts gets to work. This city is the industrial complex called Rungis Marché, the agricultural market where businesses get the food that feeds Paris. The nocturnal Parisians that operate Rungis’ meat, poultry, and fish sections trade daylight hours for chilly white fluorescent warehouses, lined with animals that do not yet look quite like food. To the visitors that ignores the life cycle of their burgers before they land on their plates, Rungis is a strange new world, where questions arise faster than any busy worker can pause to answer.

Cattle heads in the meat section of Rungis (Photo by Alice Maiden).

But even this unusual setting might seem all too familiar to women who venture into the rows of bloodied meat racks. Rungis is still, it seems, a man’s world, populated by very few women and comparatively many more age-old stereotypes.

The atmosphere is like an old photograph of butchers a century ago brought to life, joking in the camaraderie of the all-male, manly-man setting of fish and meat markets. Rungis’ head of Public Affairs and Governance, Bérengère Banquey, is a confident woman with clear command of her industry. She was the only female, though, in most of the warehouses through which she toured the student journalists visiting from Princeton University this morning.

The hierarchical relationship between Banquey and the male workers might make it tempting to dismiss the gender imbalance in Rungis – explaining the ratio away as a consequence of the shift hours, or perhaps the element of physical labor. However, some students sensed an uncomfortable atmosphere when their conversations unraveled into flirtation bordering on harassment, which might suggest otherwise.

When Princeton junior Lavinia Liang lingered in the poultry section to chat with Gary, an employee with a minimal English vocabulary, the conversation turned to hometowns. After Lavinia explained she was from New York, Gary continued to press her for more details about the city. Confused, but amiable, Liang offered more details about New York, and assumed they were misunderstanding one another. When a row of men across the aisle started to yell in French, the sociable atmosphere began to seem strange. Then Liang realized what Gary was asking for.

“It was all very friendly camaraderie – until I found out he kept asking me for my address. He had been asking for my habitación,” Liang said. When she realized what the men were joking about, she left to meet up with others from the group.

Further down the aisle, though, “they started making meowing noises at us,” Liang said.

“Just don’t respond,” another female classmate told her.

Gary’s flirtation and the workers’ cat-calling might have been isolated incidents, and perhaps not indicative of Rungis’ culture or workers. “It seemed to me that, on average, the men working in the poultry section seemed younger, but that might have been because of the people I was interacting with.”

Liang also learned that the poultry section is more lively because the employees all work for the same company, whereas the other sections contain multiple companies, and the employees work more quietly and more professionally. Even if none of the other people in Rungis would call attention to gender this way, nearly all those other people in Rungis are, still, men. Other than Banquey, Liang said, there were no women in the poultry section, and the fish and meat sections were similarly lacking in women.

One other female worker besides Banquey did stroll through the rows of hanging meat racks, donning a white coat and white wedges, blood-free despite the blood-spattered floor. This was the daughter of the Director of the meat section, her manicured hands and neatly made-up face standing in sharp contrast to her surroundings. She was not there to just look pretty; she was there to work, having recently studied business and preparing to potentially take over the business from her father.

Only 23 years old, she had studied business in school and toured the student journalists around her workplace as confidently as any of her other fellow workers. When the journalists asked about her job, though, she did not pretend her wedge shoes blended right in.

“I did want to work in luxury,” she said. “But here I am.”

The young female butcher touring Princeton student journalists around the meat section of Rungis (Photo by Alice Maiden).


The young female butcher walking away after talking to the Princeton students (Photo by Alice Maiden).

La Seduction 2.0

A table for two, preferably with candlelight. Some wine, perhaps, then the hope of another, later date. If this is the idea of romance in the United States, nowhere is more romantic than Paris.

Paris clearly has no dearth of wine or neighborhood cafés. Still, many Parisians choose to outsource their romance, via the dating app Tinder.

This isn’t surprising–Tinder has over 50 million users around the world. Yet what’s interesting about Parisian Tinder is that it’s one of few aspects of French society without pre-existing social codes. There is a correct way to dress for taking the subway and a correct way to walk into a store, but miraculously, there is no correct way to seduce someone on Tinder.

Some people use Tinder casually, some swipe through for kicks, and some actually do use it to find long-term relationships. Of those Tinder users interviewed for this article, many found it difficult to generalize about societal Tinder behavior, which makes sense. How people think about Tinder depends on the person, and on the match.

“It’s a public application where you can find all types of people, so I would say both,” wrote Marwane, 23, an engineer and self-described “voyager” who declined to give his last name on Tinder.  

Yann Vasicek-Fong Tarantino, a 22 year old student at University of Paris-Dauphine, came to the same conclusion, but articulated it a little more bluntly. When asked if Parisian men always swiped right on everyone, he said that he did not. “But in the most cases I guess yes,” he said. “And if the girl is ugly we delete her ahah.”

In this aspect, Tinder use is pretty universal. Users can indulge their most judgmental and superficial impulses because there are such low stakes, but users can also swipe with the intention of finding real connection.

But in Paris in particular, many people create their profiles with Anglophone users in mind. Even if they’ve lived in Paris their entire lives, some still write their autobiographical information in English. Others are quick to turn the conversation to English when they realize their correspondents don’t speak French, or are using bad Google-Translate.

Documentary filmmaker Eloi Le Bastart de Villeneuve, 25, thought that the ubiquity of the English language on Parisian Tinder has something to do with tourism and study abroad programs.

Every year, thousands of young English-speaking tourists and study abroad students stream into the Parisian Tinder user base. Most of these, according to Villeneuve, are just looking for a “city guide,” a Paris resident to show them around the city for free. While this sounds like a bargain, it has a price; Villeneuve assumes many of his matches are just looking for a tour guide, not romance.

If the past few years are any indications, Tinder will continue to reshape romantic interactions across the world. For now, some trends seem clear: Tinder in Paris seems tailored for its visitors.