I feel like there is such a learning curve any time I travel to a foreign country. You have to learn the public transportation system, how to make reservations in restaurants, and of course, where to get your nails done.
There are nail salons on every block in San Francisco and New York, so I've become accustomed to getting a $10 manicure every week. I naively expected a similar (albeit more expensive) setup in France, but I was so wrong. I couldn't find a nail salon anywhere and was in desperate need of a manicure (the struggle is real, y'all).
What I found is that several beauty stores offer manicures (like Sephora), but you have to make an appointment days in advance and they're equally expensive to high-end salons. That didn't seem like the most relaxing option, so through Yelp (and it's European subsidiary Qype), I found a small salon in the 6th Arrondissement called Nail Bar/Beatué Dupin. I opted for a gel manicure (so I wouldn't have to re-do this every single week that I'm here) and a regular pedicure.
This was both the best nail salon experience I've ever had and the most expensive nail salon experience I've ever had (hey, you get what you pay for, right?). I made an appointment (which in and of itself was hard with the language barrier) and was the only customer the nail attendant saw during that block of time. She spent so much time and energy making my hands and feet soft and pretty. The manicure/pedicure combo took 2 hours (!!) and was extremely thorough - she took care of my cuticles like nobody's business. In speaking with my colleagues, I've learned that the experience here is really more about hygiene and cleaning up your hands/feet than the polish itself. In fact, you have to pay extra for polish in most salons. Many French women just opt for the buffing, cutting, filing bit with no color at all.
You live and you learn! I'll definitely keep getting manis/pedis throughout my 2 months here, because I'm a total sucker, but I promise to never take my cheap nail salons for granted ever again. :)