Some of you probably remember that back before the tornado of holiday bliss hit I had set out to write a list of the top 10 things in France/Paris that I just can't stand. In the process I discovered a deep seeded hatred for grocery stores here and was never able to finish my list! But before I get to that, I think there's probably a few disclaimers I need to throw back in here:
1) In case you're ready to tar and feather me for being the world's most negative person, please be aware that I did do a post on some of the things that I absolutely love about France [click here for that post]. Anyone who has lived in a different culture comes to realize that the question is never "Do you like it/hate it living there?" but rather "What are the things you love and what drives you crazy?" It's a both and, not an either or.
2) I spent the first couple years of married life living in Paris proper. Now we live in a very close suburb (Zone 3 out of 5/6). So my frustrations might be very specific to the orb that is Paris and it's very close suburbs. The farther you up you get in zones the less likely these particular frustrations apply. Someone living outside of Paris (even in a medium sized city) will probably have some very different daily frustrations that quite possibly I can't identify with.
3) We also have a rather tight budget. Thus we sometimes have to put up with more crap for better deals...alas, money can buy a fair degree of daily comfort...
Do you think it's a bad sign that my disclaimers have already taken up half the page? Let's just say one of my strengths is not brevity :) Ok, so here goes:
Here were my previous three:
- The dreaded Prefecture (and paperwork in general!)
- Paris rudeness
- Grocery shopping! (I got pretty worked up about that one!)
And now the rest:
4. How gosh darn long it takes to get anywhere is this city! 45 minutes of driving in my hometown in Oregon would get you to a whole different city yet here, it's our average church commute! Which is by no means that odd by Paris standards. Before we moved out to the burbs I was commuting to work an hour each way--now when I tell people that it takes me only 20 min to get to work and I can avoid the dreaded transports (aka any form of public transportation) with my bike, most gush about how lucky I am and how great it must be living so close to my work. Ah yes...perspective.
5. You've all probably heard that Paris is expensive. What maybe you didn't realize is that groceries aren't all that expensive and wine can get down as cheap as 1.50 euros a bottle here (not that you really want to drink that wine of course). So where is all the money going? Why, into the pockets of landlords and real estate agents. Yep--we pay just under a thousand euros for our 2 bedroom, 592 sq ft apartment. For the same amount outside of Paris we could rent this 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,388 sq ft house.... And it's the same thing for buying as well. The farther you get out of Paris, the less impossible it seems...
6. Old ladies telling you what to do. Okay so not every old lady--but let's face it; here, the elderly are often the worst culprits! They are the worst line cutters, the grumpiest neighbors, and the most opinionated when you do finally get them to talk. It's a dog-eat-dog world at times in Paris and only the toughest and often meanest make it through.
7. This is probably a big city thing but it's ridiculously hard to get to know your neighbors here. Some won't even respond when you say hello and Parisians have passive-aggressive conflict resolution down to an art form.
8. The educational system which is a whole post that this teacher will leave for another day. Just trust me on this one.
9. A lack of go getter-ness and initiative taking. This one is linked to number 8 so I won't go hugely into detail (plus you're all probably wondering when I'm going to just finish this post already) but essentially in Anglo-Saxon cultures there tends to be more focus on creativity, breaking the "rules", and plenty of verbal praise to help you become "who you were meant to be" (is this starting to sound like a Disney song?). While I do think it can become a little excessive sometimes at home (when we're sooo afraid of hurting someone's feelings that we stop being honest)--here France is at the opposite extreme of the verbal spectrum and man do I miss that encouragement every now and then!
10. Getting your drivers license. This is where you're like, she's joking, right?? Oh sadly I am not. After seeing both my sis-in-law and my husband recently go through this process I break out in hives just thinking about it! [ps. Matt had to go through it because due to complicated driving laws, he was allowed for a long time to drive on his American driver's license but then recently was forced to go through the French process from scratch]
There is no rush to the DMV here when you turn 16. First, you're not yet legal. (That comes when you turn 18) Second, it's so gosh darn intimidating and expensive that if you live in Paris, chances are you put it off as long as possible. While most of the people in Matt's driver's ed classes where in their early 20's, he did encounter a few in their mid to late thirties, that's how long they'd waited! Your first step is the passing the written test (aka le code). If you pass it on the first try, consider yourself to have successfully bypassed all kinds of traps questions like how fast does a jaguar run and the like.
Next comes your stint with drivers ed. It cost 55 euros an hour but most of the time you have to buy a package deal with them--I looked up one randomly online and their deals ranged from 1,260 (20 hours of driving) to 2,120 euros (35 hours). So you slave away, give up your first child's future college fund and finally, you've done your time. Ah, but it's not over. Now you fork out another couple hundred euros for the pleasure of taking a test that you might or might not pass (each time you pay). Chances are you probably won't, because it would look like they're being 'too easy' on the first timer and both the driver's ed school and the government will get more money out of you if you fail--they have a vested interest.
So you take your test and let's say you fail. Now you get a minimum of another 10 hours of driving to pay for, and there's no guarantee as to how long you'll have to wait to take the test again. You might wait months. So you do your time and finally the chance of breaking out of your driving prison emerges...that is if you pass it the second time. Not kidding you, a friend of mine and very safe driver failed the test 5 times. And a couple I know from church both failed so many times that eventually they gave up on it all together and decided to just rely on public transportation! Alas, many do eventually get through it (you only have to come visit Paris and see all the traffic to attest to that!) and then it usually becomes a sort of conversation starter at dinner parties with everyone sharing their battle stories and such. Ah, well, I'll get my turn soon enough!
So there you have it! A bunch of things that I don't particularly like about living here. That's okay though because every culture reflects in some way God's image and yet is à la fois marred by it's own sin. So it's okay that I don't love everything about here--France isn't perfect, but then again, neither is home. I'm okay with living somewhere in the messy in-between.