Allow me to be frank, please.
The U.S. is constantly fed an extremely exoticized, romanticized version of Paris via the media and means to lure tourists. I do not know when or why this started, but I, in addition, was victim to its spell until actually living here. I think that most of us, when pondering Paris, imagine the most beautiful, romantic, fashionable, artistic, perfect city on Earth. Disparate things, such as the movie Moulin Rouge or the Long Beach restaurant La Crêperie, are more pleasurable experiences because one can virtually transport oneself to the City of Lights. I even, at one point in my life, had my bedroom decorated in a “Paris” theme, with Eiffel Tower motifs and all. Why Paris? Why not any other city?
It was quite disturbing when I came to the realization that Paris is not the Promised Land. In fact, there have been so many times when, within the course of the same day, I hate Paris and then love it a few hours later.
First of all, though this might sound like the pettiest complaint of all, it’s so. cold. here. And cloudy. How many times do I have to re-learn the same lesson, that I really hate living in a place that is cold and cloudy every single day? It’s not like I lived in Seattle for two years or anything… it’s just that, being cold makes me physically uncomfortable. Walking around outside, I find myself tensing up my whole body to fight it off, with limited success. I don’t like having to layer and wear giant coats all of the time; I feel like I can be so much more creative with my outfits when I don’t have to have actual practical concerns about the weather. Furthermore, not seeing the sun for weeks at a time really does put a damper on my mood. The few times that it has been sunny here, I felt, in myself, lighter as well; the sunshine makes me appreciate the small things in life a lot more.
Additionally, not to generalize an entire population of people or anything, but Parisians actually are rude. In Istanbul, for example, if I ever looked lost, someone would come up to me and spend twenty minutes with me looking up directions on their phone or actually walking me to wherever I needed to go. In Paris, that does not exist, and a Parisian might even seem annoyed upon being asked for directions. Furthermore, I have encountered numerous times being at bars or clubs in which everyone there seemed as if they only came with their friends and without a desire to meet new people; I typically have to be the one to make the effort in socializing with new people.
And it’s noisy and crowded here, and too concrete, and I hate being squeezed like a sardine in the metro, and blah blah blah…
However, whilst walking around with my giant coat and tense muscles, I’ll take a look around and stumble upon a historical monument or a beautiful, world-famous museum. How am I so lucky to live in the city that contains Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower? I feel like I live in an art history textbook, and for that I am so appreciative.
Then I’ll meander down an extremely narrow, cobblestoned street, filled with cute cafés and boulangeries; they reside at the bottom of cream-colored, historical-looking buildings with black railings and flower boxes on the balconies. I will think to myself, “Shit, this city is beautiful!”
Finally, in the night, I will go to a club filled to the brim with snooty hipsters. However, I will dance my booty off until the wee hours of the morning to the best electronic music that I’ve ever heard, and I will realized that only in Paris could this happen. (Might I add that it seems so normal to me that I would be allowed into a club. I’m twenty years old! I’m an adult!)
I can feel like I am being bratty during my moments in which I don’t like living in Paris. For example, when I was taking the train from Southern France to Paris, I actually thought to myself, “Man, too bad I have to go back to Paris now!” Like, what a terrible problem to have! However, as much as I try to be as appreciative as possible, I think viewing this city with honest eyes instead of idealized eyes is also an important endeavor. It has definitely been an interesting process to live a more quotidien life here as opposed to being on vacation; studying abroad in Paris is vastly different than what I experienced as a tourist here last year. And for that, my return back to the United States will definitely be bizarre, if not bittersweet.