Today, I would like to comment on my post about fanfiction, which depicts very flattering image of Paris. Having lived here for almost five years, I’m not totally sharing the point of view my fictional Rilke character gives voice to. Also, considering that I initially came here for just one year, five years is quite a while and I somehow feel that I’ve seen everything worth seeing. I don’t contest that there’s still something new to discover with every passing day, even after having spent a lifetime here. Nevertheless, going for something new seems much more appealing to me right now. And so thinking about how to take my personal and professional life to a new level, I’m also thinking about moving.
Even though for now, I have no idea where I would like to live instead of Paris or France, staying here for five more years doesn’t seem to fit me anymore. By the way, I never was as psyched about coming to Paris in the first place. I remember how excited all the other students of my year where, and how worried as well. They took months, some of them almost a year, to plan everything. All the hysteria going on at that time never really affected me. Sure, Paris is an amazing city, but for me, it was just one of the European capitals, and so I didn’t expect it to be particularly breath-taking. Having spent a year in France before, it also didn’t seem to me as if it was any trouble to move there. And so I just went. There have been maybe two or three things which weren’t easy to manage, but still, nothing really bad. The only thing which really brought me down was that I arrived for the semester starting in October, and it was quite the opposite of a pleasant autumn, I remember it to be incredibly cold and rainy that year.
Before Paris, I used to live in small towns, where people were used to always go by bike and were going from one end of the town to the other wouldn’t take more than half an hour. In Paris, on the contrary, I spent my first weeks mostly underground, in the metro, away from the sunlight, which was already hard to get, even during the day. going back and forth from one unwelcoming university building to another. And when I finally got out of the the cold and artificially lit classrooms, the sun, or at least what you could have guessed from it, had already disappeared. In addition to that, I happened to finish class right in the middle of rush hour and so my early evening ritual consisted in being crammed into the metro together with crowds of of moody and stressed out looking passengers who were totally absorbed by their phones and apparently didn’t want to engage any sort of human interaction.
I’m definitely not the kind of person who gets in touch with people easily. But seeing a friendly face every now and then might have helped me not being as depressed as I was at that time. I also forgot to mention that I never was interested in becoming besties with the other girls of my year. And I didn’t know anybody else in Paris back then, which made it a little hard at the beginning.
Fortunately, it all changed. I’ve met awesome people, got a job, also quit the studies which I hated and which made me sick. And in the meanwhile, I slowly assimilated.
Not being very comfortable during the first months soon gave me the same facial expression I had noticed on other people since my very first ride on the Parisian metro. I also stopped wearing colors and progressively got rid of everything in my closet which wasn’t black or dark grey. The funny thing is, that although I’m in a much better place now, I’m still sticking to the style I adopted back then, some little changes apart. I’ve reintroduced white and blue items to my wardrobe and if I want to go a little crazy, I also have a few pastel colored pieces. But nothing more eccentric than that. I also kept my habit of only wearing black jeans, except on Sundays – that’s the day when I pull on the only blue jeans I own, combined with a casual sweater or tee. Funnily, it took some time until I realized that changing my style had also been a sign of assimilation. The reason why Parisians have their particular chic is the absence of color, except maybe for red, blue, a dark green or a dark purple. The style of clothing is rather dark in general. I also have the impression that Parisians aren’t very eager in taking risks when it comes to choosing their outfit. The only time I’ve seen a daring way of dressing was during Fashion Week and still, it seemed too strained.
I like understatement, though and I love a rather casual style. Especially if you’re always as late for dates as I am, just grabbing a pullover and some jeans can save you a lot of time. And provided that you’ve chosen some nice fabric, and the right shoes, not trainers!, this kind of outfit doesn’t look too grungy or even neglected. Of course, I love to dress up, too. But from time to time, I also have my moments which aren’t very glorious. The latter doesn’t happen that often any more, but when I still worked in a pub, there were days when I just didn’t care at all. After an intense eight hour shift and the sleep deprivation caused by partying afterwards, I sometimes went grocery shopping in my pajamas, giving off the olfactory traces from the night before in all their nastiness. I only made the effort to brush my teeth before leaving the house. In those moments, I realized that I had become the weirdest person in the metro. And I was relieved, because being aware of being the weirdest passenger also proved that I still wasn’t the craziest, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have noticed. But there’s at least one bad thing about embodying the “strange person”: It also attracts really strange people, sometimes as strange as disturbing. From bumping repeatedly into awkward strangers (one of them kept talking about killing mosquitoes), over sitting in a bus next to a guy with a major bleeding wound on his hand and his toothbrush in his pocket, to being in the same and otherwise empty train wagon as heroin junkies preparing their next shot. And I’ve also been confused with a prostitute (in winter, when I was wrapped up in my huge and bulky coat, showing absolutely no skin, except for the slit between my woolly hat and the scarf I had even pulled over my nose), just because I was in the wrong place for a couple of minutes too long.
For those who haven’t noticed yet, Paris isn’t always as picturesque a my fictional character describes it. But it sure is an adventure. And even though I feel that I will be ready to move to another country, soon-ish, I also know that I will miss Paris, for its beauty, but also for its crazy people.
PS: There are also friendly people here, who are not crazy at all. And there also is sun.