If I only had a dime for every time I got the reaction "Oh my gosh, you live in Paris? Your life must be perfect!" Combine that with another dime for every other person who tells me, "Oh wow--Paris, man, I'm sorry. What's it like living all the time with those snobs?" and I would be one rich girl (not a bad idea--maybe I should start charging!). So to prove to you all that Paris is neither heaven nor hell on earth I've come up with two lists, the first being my 10 favorite things about living in this city/country. That of course leaves the 10 things I hate about living in this city/country for next time.
Okay, the positive (and please don't tell me that just because you went on some tour with your aunt Millie 4 years ago and you spent three days and 5 traumatic encounters with the tourism industry in the city of lights that now you know the place, just like you know what all French people are like just because you chatted [or tried to] with the thin mustachy man at the metro ticketing booth).
- Okay, lets start with the obvious...have you ever looked at Paris??? And I'm not talking about the ride out on the RER train from the airport because nobody's calling that beautiful. I mean the heart of the city--you know, down on the Seine River with all the bridges and old buildings, the Eiffel Tower glittering at night, the night glow from groups of cafes and their crazy Parisian residents eating dinner at all hours of the night. Paris is gorgeous and I for one, like it.
- That moves us along to point number two--Paris does nothing fast. She gives out her secrets one painstaking year at a time. This used to drive me crazy when I first came...I mean, what was so wrong about wishing Paris could for once operate on a grid system (you know, two streets that look parallel actually being so!) or finding everything I needed in one grocery store, or being able to know once and for all what I needed to write home asking Mom to send me? But then I grew to appreciate it...because that's where Paris' charm lies, in her secrets. By living in Paris, you gradually realize that you will never really know this city inside and out. You will constantly be stumbling onto new random and awesome discoveries, saying "I can't believe I had no idea that people do that here" again and again and you will never get bored with this city. That is why, folks, you offend Parisians when you say that you saw everything there was to see within the span of two or three days.
- Food, food, food. Let's just face it: France has some awesome food. And Paris, being the capital and central hub of France makes some of it's best food come to it. I don't have to go very far to find just about any French treat that I could want--from Southern specialties to Northern, every corner of France is represented here. And it's stinkin' divine.
- I bet if I asked you to describe the typical Parisian, you'd describe for me some white dude with a beret and a baguette. And well, that might describe one or two of the papis out in province, you might be a little surprised (like me on my first trip here!) to see that Paris is chocked full of people from all over the world... Africans/North Africans, Asians, Europeans from other countries, and even a few Anglosaxons :) I for one, love how international the city is: not only do you end up mixing with people from all corners of the globe (and thus don't have the word foreigner taped to your forehead like in some other countries of the world) but you can travel without stepping foot on an airplane: I promise you, getting a Thai massage or walking through a North African market easily helps you forget that you're still in Paris.
- Parks, parks, parks. Go find a Parisian park and you'll fall in love with it. They're all so different and all so fabulous.
- Free health care. Okay, this is a hot topic in some parts of the world (esp. on an election year!) but I genuinely looove my health care system here. Let's take the arrival of this baby for starters: between my government provided health care and my private insurance which costs me a whoppin' 30 euros a month, everything, and I do mean everything, is covered. From my monthly checkups to my hospital stay, we don't pay a dime. And the clinker is, they're even going to give us money just for having a kid! And it doesn't stop there--all my doctor's visits are covered, etc. There really is no good reason to not be in good health in this country.
- Vacation, vacation, and mooore vacation!! Let's just put it this way: all employees here get 5 weeks of paid vacation every year--and they all take it. There are no vacation hoarders around here, because everyone knows that you just get 5 more the next time around again! I, as a teacher, (drumroll please) get somewhere between 4 and 5 months of vacation time every year...yes, I know, you're giving me your angry faces right not...please don't hate me, it's just the way this country works! ; )
- The weather. Okay maybe you were following me but now you're saying "hold the phone, did she say weather??" Yeah, I did. Admittedly, if I were a native Californian I probably wouldn't be saying this but being an Oregon girl, well let's face it...sunshine is not exactly the main attraction over yonder. Not that it's world's different here, but there are some small differences that can add up to big changes. For instance, when it rains here, it really rains. That might sound ironic coming from someone that grew up in Oregon but actually over there, even when it's raining hard it's not raining nearly as hard as it can rain here. The difference is, where here it might rain for 10 minutes and then be done, back in Oraygone you know it will probably rain (or sprinkle) the whole day. Paris weather is (in my mind) a bit more like Colorado weather, just minus a blizzard or two (or minus all the blizzards, and all the snow for that matter!). You just never know what you'll get--it could be hailing one minute, then warm and sunny the next. But that adds up to better chances for nice, sunny weather, even if it's only an hour or two...
- The language. This will probably also go on my hate list as well because it's kind of a love hate thing for me but at least lets all admit to ourselves that French is a pretty stinkin beautiful language. And until you expand your vocabulary, even the angry cuss words come off sounding pretty! At the risk of offending someone, I'll leave off a few of the languages that I don't find quite as pretty as the French language (but come one, you can all picture one or two in your head!)
- The French. (What, you didn't think I'd mention them?? I am married to one of them after all!) While there are rude and unlikable people in every culture, I can guarantee you that there is not a whole country full of rude people. You're going to have to change your stereotypes people. I have met some amazingly kind, generous, and thoughtful people in this city (admittedly not particularly often in the metro). The problem is that they're just like their city: they take a while to warm up to you. With so much turnover in Paris, the average Parisian is going to assume that you're not really here to stay (whether you're foreign or French from elsewhere, it's all the same for them!) and so from the get-go you're going to be faced with the challenge of trying to prove them otherwise. But for the one who perseveres, victory is very sweet. Because once your in, as long as you don't do something to enrage them, you're in. They'll be your greatest ally.