In my arena of first-world privileges, I have taken to observing the French, my people-watching soaring new heights throughout my travels. I enjoy the cliché of eating some dish I can’t properly pronounce with my laptop next to me, near the token merry-go-round of the town square.
1.) On Paris in general: In my experience, I am assured that Paris is not romantic unless you’re a tourist. Don’t try to be cute and mention that café Hemingway liked to write in. Rookie mistake, self, you sound like an idiot.
2.) On Parisians being rude: I personally don’t think Parisians differ from any other occasional moody butthead you’d find in any other country who might roll their eyes as I painstakingly try to separate Euros from dollars at their counter. However, the towns-folk assure me that Parisians speak through their nose and are constantly depressed. A stranger I met passing through at the station mentioned that he escaped Paris because ‘they’re a sad people.’ The country-folk, in turn, are regarded with the disdain that people seem to have who live in or come from larger cities: “ugh, there is nothing to do there.” Same shit, different side of the world.
3.) On mealtime: Yes, French food is amazing. I don’t know however, if it’s simply the authenticity of the ingredients, the seemingly unlimited supply of pastry and smell of fresh-bread on my brisk-ish walks, or that I calculated that on my weekends when dining with a French family, eating/talking/drinking wine takes up approximately five and a half hours of the day. From my experience, lunch can last anywhere from thirty minutes to two-and-a-half hours.
4.) On the fashion: Whilst I probably still have an éclair tucked away in my washed-out denim jacket, I have noticed that the French women enjoy their monochrome. Conforming includes a wardrobe with little else than black, white, grey, navy and MAYBE a colorful scarf if I’m feeling particularly flamboyant or controversial. Cue the awkward moment when I’m sitting at a dinner party in my fun purple dress drinking some home-brewed liquor like some sort of toucan amidst a sea of nylon-wearing ladies. It seemed a variation of the same outfit, and I felt as baffled as Cady from Mean Girls when she found out that actually, Wednesdays were for pink.
5.) On the men: Though perhaps I’ve simply been conditioned with back-handed compliments, there is forwardness to the French that I haven’t experienced as much. Sleazy? Genuine? Brave? I don’t even know what to say but laugh/nearly spit out my wine/look around for reinforcement when someone is saying something about poetry and eyes and foreigners.
6.) On the dogs: There are actually dogs in people’s bags. In bars. And the dogs seem content in these bars like they own the place with their sophisticated female-owners. I nearly jumped in shock as I looked down at the wooden floors to a canine hanging out in a black leather bag that probably costs more than a week’s rent, while it’s owner had combed back white hair, pearls and an Audrey-Hepburn cigarette. However, I was crushed that even (or especially) in France there is also dog-crap on the sidewalk, a discovery that left me devastated and made for a sad walk home.
7.) On the cheese: Amazing. But, maybe sampling each of the cheeses wasn’t the best idea for my digestion problems/arteries/budget. But there is always something new to try at the Saturday markets, and the farmers think it’s cute that I’m excited. That, or they’re poisoning me with their blue cheese and laughing at my stupidity. Worth it.
8.) On cake: There will always be cake. Even three-hour hikes are an opportunity to eat, because that one time I went daffodil picking with a bunch of pensioners, someone bought some homemade apple tart and a bottle of champagne to celebrate the purchase of a rare 1950s car. Only in France.
9.) “French women, don’t get fat, it’s all about the portions.” Ha, portions in a French pastry shop. Cute.
10. ) You drink wine at dinner, no matter what: Attempts to protest that you’re on antibiotics is met with a sigh and a half a glass being poured by your slightly insulted host, with a nod towards the water if you are silly enough to water it down. After all, this is French wine and has medicinal qualities not experienced by pesky things like prescribed medication.