La vie parisienne
Paris, the city of love.. You for sure see more people kissing and embracing each other than in a random street of Estonia. But it`s not all gold that blinks. Living in Paris is not something everybody is made for. Life is speedy and expensive, the streets are full and people are not always friendly to one another. Pale faces would make visitors believe that Parisians have grey blood and small weights in their face to expose their wrinkles to the maximum gravitation possible. They can even be recognised by their walking speed! Metro-boulot-dodo (Metro-work-sleep) quite well sums up what living in Paris mainly consists of.
`It`s hard to actually find people who were born and raised in Paris`, warns Jean-Marc (33), who is born in Bretagne and moved to the Paris region for work. He lives with his daughter and wife is in the first ring of suburbs around Paris, in Carri?res sur Seine. Strictly taken, Carri?res is not actually a part of Paris as the city of Paris is strictly delimited by the Boulevard P?riph?rique, the ring way around it. Everything else is at best called Banlieue, which stretches up to 50 kilometres out of Paris in any direction. A Parisian refers to everything in France that is not Paris by calling it Province, which has almost the same connotation as L`?tranger: `abroad`.
..counts himself in with the new cycling generation in Paris
Laetitia (22) is originally from Lyon but now lives in the the 10th arrondissement in Paris. She studies sociology and agrees that Paris is hard to escape once you have installed yourself there. `Life is not necessarily stressful, but it is indeed tiring. Moving out of the city, even during weekends or on short excursions, is very difficult. Because of traffic jams, but also because there is always so much going on in Paris that you hardly ever need to go elsewhere`, she says, `theatres, film, dance, culture, restaurants ? no matter the weather, there`s always something to do, at any time of any day`.
Laetitia, like many others, had a hard time finding an apartment in Paris. The offer is often limited to a few square meters on the 7th floor with no elevator, a few years behind on maintenance works and all. Networking is required for those who want anything better. Once newcomers are installed, working or studying in Paris quickly puts them in contact with other non-Parisians. The resulting network will for many years to come remain a reason for people to keep returning to Paris, even for the ones who move to other cities or the countryside.
Foreigners also find their way to Paris. The city is a diverse melting pot with some nationalities taking a particular place. Without prejudice to the many other ethnic populations, Denmark is one of the countries represented. Every year, a few hands full of Danish ladies sets sail to Paris after finishing secondary school. Frederikke (19) is one of them. She works in a caf? in the centre of Paris and enjoys the one-year break she took before starting her studies in Latin and ancient Greek. She has ambiguous thoughts about the Parisian appetite for tall, blond ladies but otherwise greatly enjoys her stay in the French capital.
Pollution and traffic congestions are two troublesome factors in Paris life. The Velib initiative, rental bikes across town, has increased the number of bikes in Parisian streets from virtually none to quite a few. Cycling is fashionable and the Velib even exceed their own success by motivating people to move across town on their own bikes. Etienne (23, photo) is part of the new cycling generation and uses his bike to get to university or into town. `We are now waiting for a network of cycling lanes, because safety is not yet guaranteed by far.`
The popularity of cycling reached record levels during the recent strikes in public transportation. Etienne explains that Paris heavily depends on its dense and extended network of metro lines, combined with day buses, night buses and, since recently, tramways. Professional and social life come to a standstill when public transportation stops working. `For several days in a row, bikes were the only mode of transportation that could still actually get you somewhere. Incredible numbers of people turned to the Velibs, many more than there are actually bikes. Some people tried to illegally `reserve` rental bikes by attaching them to the base stations with their own locks`, says Etienne.
Parisians, people in the banlieue and people in the Province all have different ideas about Paris. Etienne tells about the infamous French family leaving to the countryside for summer holidays. `Les Parisiens qui d?barquent` (the Parisians disembarking) is an often heard expression to announce the news. Parisians can be recognised wherever they move by car by their license plate ending in 75. Anything related to unsatisfactory driving or parking styles can be blamed on people with this number plate.
While people who are not from Paris claim that getting some fresh air is difficult in Paris, the real Parisians are satisfied with the big number of parks. They are proud for having such a green city and for even having a summer beach on the banks of the Seine river. Paris Plage, Paris Beach, was introduced a few years ago and now draws huge crows to a tiny bit of sand against a very high cost.
Outsiders are happy to find everything nearby. Real Parisians, like Anne-Charlotte (25), hate the fact that it always takes long to get somewhere. Parisians complain that shops and facilities are too far apart and that it always takes too long to get somewhere. Another difference: import-Parisians think that raising a family in Paris is close to impossible, whereas the real Parisians do not see any problems why: everything one needs can be found in Paris.
There are a few things on which the real Parisians and the import-Parisians agree on. One: prices of food and living are incredibly high. Two: many people in Paris are very careful about what they wear and they prefer it to correspond to the latest fashion, more so than their compatriots from the Province. Third: there`s always something interesting going on and most important: all neighbourhoods and streets are distinctly different from one another, and there is always a new part of the city to discover.
The different streets and arrondissements are a topic that`s almost as popular as the weather. Every arrondissement has a different character and Parisians will be happy to share their philosophies about each of them at length. XVI is associated with the wealthy, XIII with the Chinese, VIII with head quarters of some of France`s leading companies ? and more importantly: the Charles de Gaulle Etoile marked by the Arc de Triomphe. Understanding Paris starts by getting your numbers right. Everything else is explore, explore, explore. Good luck on your next trip to Paris!
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