At least it’s Paris!

It's winter. She arrived in Paris two weeks ago. On the first night she discovered that her apartment had been rented to someone else - "Je suis desolée madame. Ce n'est pas de ma faute". Her new job (10 hour day nanny at €8 n hour) starts the next day - "The 4 children can't wait to meet you!" Her luggage is still somewhere at the airport and her French sucks. She's friendless. She's been paying for a hotel room, the cost of which is eating shark-like into her credit card (the one she has for emergencies). As she crawls into bed she checks her Facebook page to look for support from the loved ones she desperately misses back home. Among the kisses and hugs glares a frequent comeback from most in response to her plight:

At least you're in Paris!


Not a typical sky.

She is crushed. This disconcertingly flippant and unsupportive comeback is not what she needed or expected.  What the hell is 'at least you're in Paris' meant to mean? That Paris is the ultimate magic bandaid for problems? Or that problems can't exist here? I blame it on the fake romanticised view often spewed out by B grade authors.  Pretty pastel-coloured paperback novels, written about Paris (and France), adorn bookshelves across the world.  'A Lay in Lyon', 'Painting Pointlessly in Paris', 'Giddily Gadding about in a Gare... '. Written in a high-pitched, 20-something female voice, these writers paint a picture of Paris as yet unseen by this writer. Thank god. Sadly however, their faux conceptions of Paris have become popular ideals of what it's really like to live in the City of Lights, the City of Chocolate, the City of Midnight Kisses, Macarons, Love, Perfection...



The good life.

For those who live here longer than eight months (it takes at least that long to figure out that if you don't greet the shop keeper the minute you step in a shop you'll be ignored until you return the next time and behave properly) it is not as if we do not appreciate where we are.  We love the cafes, especially when they're quiet and the chatter of the French staff fill us to the brim with happiness. We hug ourselves with joy when we walk beside the Seine and sit at our favourite spot to eat a chewy, crunchy, still warm baguette (bien cuite s'il vous plaît!). We're the ones who walk down the street grinning to ourselves just because we finally understood an entire conversation with a Parisian (even if it only lasted one minute). And you'll see us (okay this is probably just me) totally chuffed because the man dressed as a clown on the Grands Boulevards has finally, after months of only interacting with French folk, stopped me and asked me (in French) 'why do I look so sad when I am so pretty?'.

That's a clown one-liner, readers.


A sucky Summer day in Paris.

But sometimes life here, as it does everywhere, sucks. Big time. 'Paris' isn't a big stretchy crepe bandage supporting our 'sprains'. I implore you to not forget that when we tell you we are lonely, or that we think we made the biggest mistake of our lives, have been rejected by ten banks and that our visa renewal is tomorrow.  We aren't loving Paris when we say we have struggled to find a place to live due to not having two years of rent locked in a French bank account and nor do we have supporting documents from our great great grandparents saying they will pay the rent if we do a runner. Sometimes we are suffering because despite trying our very, very best at being friendly and speaking French to strangers, we've failed to evoke the barest of smiles from locals who think that a smile for no reason is in fact a sign that you are an idiot.

Yes we chose to live here, for a longer time than we thought sensible. However, do our friends and family far away really want us to continually trumpet how bloody fabulous our lives are in Paris as we sip on wine outside cafes on Rue de Blah Blah Blah watching the Parisian set snappily promenade by? Wouldn't they prefer us to tell them what life is really like in this foreign city that we have decided to tackle, usually on our own? Forget that it's Paris, forget that it was our choice to move here, forget that we apparently have it all - just because it's Paris.


All is good in the world.

Instead, complain with us about the never-ending grey skies (it really is the oddest thing), drool as we describe the delicious food, be stunned by our stories of the public urination some Parisian men seem to enjoy, laugh with us as we admit we consume four times as much wine in one sitting compared to 'those skinny French biatches' and enjoy our (remarkably non made up) tales of wonderfully bizarre cultural encounters. Paris has as much fabulousness and as many annoying qualities as anywhere else in the world. We like to tell you that. It's our life.

Dreams can suck sometimes. And that's okay. You don't really want to read a blog about me having a hair-flickingly fabulous time every day do you?

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About Sandra E Brown

I withdrew from my Masters (Neuropsychology) to write a blog instead, and to teach English as a second language. Life is too short to be doing something you want to retire from at 65! I now live in Paris, France.
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2 Responses to At least it’s Paris!

  1. Hannah Meek says:

    Thank you for the honesty. I lived in Madrid as a nanny when I was twenty and I had similar feelings… traveling is lonely, a lot of people idealize.

    But still, the bread!…

    • Ah honestly is the only way to write. Or else it sounds contrived. Blurgh who wants to read that eh? The bread is very delicious indeed lol. In fact Hannah, the saying should be ‘At least you have baguettes’!

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