As I was scrolling through my camera roll searching for inspiration for this week’s blog post, I realised that I have completed two months of full time work in Paris. Two! Months! Seeing as I’ve been living here for almost nine weeks, I thought I’d share with you some of what I have learnt so far about the big city.
The pace of life in France is completely different to that in England. Moving to a huge city like Paris, I was expecting much of the same hustle and bustle that can be found in any large city in the UK, but everything is noticeably slower. Excluding the hours in the office, the rush of London is not mirrored in Paris. People don’t push or shove on the metro, commuters will happily move out of the way to let others on without groaning or shaking their heads, and if there isn’t enough room they will simply wait for the next train without seeming to worry about being late. People don’t seem to run, or even walk briskly, and rarely do I see someone dashing to where they need to be.
The French really do live up to their stereotype in terms of their love of good nourriture; farmer’s markets, bistrots and crêperies are not hard to come by. It’s practically impossible to walk a few hundred metres in Paris without being hit by the delicious smell of freshly-baked bread and pastries wafting from independent little boulangeries. Baguettes the length of my arm, pain au chocolats as big as my head and mountains of irresistible sugary chouquettes. Paul Hollywood would be giving out handshakes like they’re going out of fashion… (I’m team Steven, by the way).
However, life in Paris isn’t all la vie en rose. While there are many things to love and admire about this city, it is absolutely impossible to ignore the stark segregation, as well as the widespread poverty and homelessness that is literally around every corner. My flatmate Kate had her phone stolen out of her pocket while leaving the metro station this week; a horrible crime that served as a reminder that there are nasty people everywhere – even, or perhaps especially, in one of the most beautiful cities.
Living in a place like Paris makes me feel pretty helpless. Little fish, big pond. There seems to be nothing I can do about the deep-rooted racism and segregation, nor the people who wish to bring evil into the world, and no matter how much I give there will always be people with no other option than to live on the streets.
This week our company provided the interpreters for the CityLab Paris conference, and I loved listening to the discussions about how to improve all aspects of cities (transport, environment, terrorism, immigration and integration to name a few). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ta-Nehisi Coates perfectly illustrate my point about the stark issues in Paris (click here for the video and watch from 13:50) as they discuss ‘hidden’ problems which are, in reality, only hidden to those who choose to hide from them.