About Paris

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.

Culture, Paris

Today’s attack on Charlie Hebdo

Maybe the biggest news in France today was the terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Since the news quickly spread, I’m pretty sure many of you heard about it. Personally, I saw the report on the TV this morning and later today, my attention was brought to it by friends who went to show their support for the magazine this evening at Place de la République. I’m positively surprised how fast and to what a big extent people reacted to this attack. In contrast to that, I’m sadly not very surprised at all that the attack took place, simply because the magazine has a history of stirring up controversy and also because there has been an incident in the past. Of course, nothing justifies terror and any kind of violence, no matter of which possible reason is unacceptable. But I do understand that certain publications might be considered as offensive or even insulting. And so I cannot help wondering about how we would react to an article or a caricature which obviously made fun of the beliefs, customs and cultural traditions which are enshrined in our society. (Hopefully not with a terror attack, that’s for sure!) Also, I am convinced that people should be able to make comments, express their opinion as well as criticism without having to be afraid of being persecuted in any way or being attacked, neither verbally, nor physically. Still, how far should you go when speaking your mind? That’s a question almost impossible to answer and there surely is no rule to apply. Maybe, today’s tragedy could have been avoided under different circumstances. And maybe, a better cultural understanding could have helped with that. Now, this said, I will go and read some Utopian novel.


Autumn in Paris

Now that November arrived, it already becomes less easy to find eccentrically or very well dressed people in Paris, mostly because they are all covered in black winter coats. That’s something very Parisian, by the way. As soon as summer is over, people change their (sometimes overly) coloured clothes against much darker items. Especially when it starts raining, the national grief about the end of those two weeks of summer, which nature gives to Paris every year, can be particularly well observed. There is no single umbrella which isn’t black, except the transparent ones which mark a new trend, and except the funny umbrellas tourists use when they’re not wearing one of those bin-bag-like raincoats. And it’s not only the dark colours which make the city look like a grieving widow, but people suddenly also start to walk with their heads down, and not only when it’s raining. And besides of being very annoying, making a slalom run through all those people who might or might not bump into you can also be very entertaining. What I personally also find very funny is when people approach till a few centimetres close until they finally see your feet and stop walking. The look they give you then, as if you were Albus Dumbledore who just appeared out of nowhere, is priceless. I have to admit that I sometimes force this situation, just for my own amusement.
But I’m getting carried away, because I actually would like to present you two styles which I like a lot.
On the first picture, you see a very good friend of mine who is wearing a cool combination of jeans and leather. Black leather jackets by the way happen to be of my favourite items, amongst others. Except for very few people, they immediately give you the coolness of James Dean. And even dorky girls like me suddenly look like some hot biker chick that could also be in some calendar for guys (except that we keep our t-shirts on, and also our pants). Usually, people combine leather jackets with jeans. My friend also does that, but she’s wearing a jeans shirt. And you don’t see that very often. That’s why I like her look.
The second picture was taken in the Marais. This girl walked by and it was a coincidence that I noticed her amazing coat. So I, crazy person as I am, started running after her, telling her to wait in French. When I finally reached her, I found out that she was American and that she wasn’t afraid of me, but that she just didn’t speak French. She also told me that she had made the coat herself.
I just love the simple elegancy of her outfit and the little golden details on her shoes and her bag that match perfectly. I’m still happy about having run after her.

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