I’ve been in Paris for a few weeks now… a month, almost. A month!
Is life here grand?
The city is grand. Living here for the year is certainly not like an extended vacation, though: your mindset is completely different when you know that you’ll be here for a year as a student, and the experience is exciting in a completely different way. However, no matter your purpose in the city, Saturdays are Saturdays (most of the time), and Paris is Paris. I am in love with this city. I’m in love with its pastries, its unrefrigerated milk, its monuments, its sunsets, its students, its vibrancy, its streets, its hidden spots, its markets, its evenings, its everythings.
In short, yep, life here is grand!
I was telling my friend earlier that there is something magical about this city at night. You don’t always see it - sometimes you’re having a conversation, or lost, or studying, or whatever. But once in a while, you look up and something very strange happens.
It happened once when picnicking with a few classmates under lamplight on Paris’ Catholic Association’s building’s steps. It happened once while I was waiting for 3 friends one night at the City Hall… the moon formed part of a perfect backdrop for the beautifully illuminated Hotel de Ville square as I watched people wandering, looking, living. I suddenly felt like a part of something very beautiful.
I also feel like the first few weeks in any new place are hilarious. Everything is new and foreign and head-tilt-worthy. Here are a few of those everythings and other thoughts that made me laugh (or just head-tilt):
- A man sleeping on his motorcycle in the middle of the road with his feet up and his hands behind his head. Good on you, sir.
- Guys working at the local supermarket rolling around on roller blades to be more efficient grocery-helpers. (Carrefour, no lie!)
- Why are French kids so cute? Maybe it’s just the idea of a little kid squealing so effortlessly in a foreign language that you’ve spent decades trying to master. Also, it’s definitely got to do with the fact that they are impeccably dressed. I am going to buy clothes for my children here. Adorable.
- Gangsters in Gare du Nord (a Paris neighbourhood) are so funny. They wear their pants conveniently below their bum, like gangsters anywhere. However, their pants are all European-style, so they are very tight everywhere else. It’s a very funny look – I can’t shake the thought that their bums are popping out of their pants. Uh oh.
- Conformity is quite a thing here, at least much more than it is in Canada. It’s so much more common for a phrase starting with ‘the French tend to..’ (wear black, be stressed, kiss twice when they meet you, be borderline anorexic, smoke) to ring true than ‘Canadians tend to..’ I suppose that’s obvious when you think about how multicultural Toronto is and the sheer number of cultures all the people come from. But it also seems like more than just that — regardless of where you’re from, there are certain mannerisms that are so common to Parisians. Having been brought up in T-Dot, I find this amusing.
- People in this city are generally not mean. Some people are incredibly, incredibly kind, and I don’t mean them as anomalies. It’s just that the French way of interacting is different from ours sometimes.
- Pedicures are a must in Paris… and good luck with open-toed shoes! The city is lovely but the streets are so, so dusty, and sometimes dirty.
- Boys here have lovely hair. Sometimes my own hair feels plain in comparison!
But the two things that I find the most interesting about Paris are the food and the French educational system. Look out for my next post, where I’ll say more about those.
Take care! Bisous
Raha is an economics and philosophy undergraduate at the University of Toronto . She’s spending her third year abroad, studying in Paris. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.