As of right now, I am not a French woman, if that wasn’t obvious enough. But what I’m worried about is if I’ll ever be able to call Paris my home.
It’s this slower pace of life. People are content to sit at cafés for very long periods of time, meeting people, discussing ideas, or just reading. If I were to somehow capture the feeling and sense of Paris, it would be a sexy, slim, tan woman lying in the warm sand on a beach, under the bright sun, with clear light blue water washing up on the shore, rhythmically, sensually. Paris is sultry and romantic, with a heavy bass you could just melt into.
The French have huge heads and huge hearts filled with emotion, passion, and big dreams and fantasies, but no concrete drive to make what they want happen. This city is called the “City of Love,” for the amorous aspect, the couples, the intimacy, the kissing, the beauty in every direction. But it’s “love” in the way literal sense of romance – romanticized, romantic, unreal, irrational. This isn’t a city filled with the top business tycoons and big-name lawyers, but it is instead a city of writers and artists – romantics. I suspect this is why French women come off as cool and aloof and why French men are so exotically charming – because they are a mystery, lost in thoughts that I could never even begin fathom.
But I have also never seen a city where more men and women stand aimlessly on the streets, doing what I presume to be nothing. It would be one thing if they were taking a break from work, but it’s clear enough that they are just there, observing. Obviously not everybody is doing this, but relative to other places I’ve seen and been, this sense leisure is so much more prominent.
It’s just not my way of life. Not to say I’m only allowed to live one lifestyle. I’m giving myself the right to adapt and change depending on where I am. And I’m here to adapt and learn, and learning I am. I’m also not here to change anything about this city. But I have so much I want to do with my career, as much as I hate to say it and I’m sure you hate me for saying, that I just couldn’t do this forever. It’s just my personality. I need to constantly be doing something, even if that means eating constantly (and eat constantly I do). I know myself well enough to know that I am much too competitive and fast-paced, for lack of a better word, to live here. I’m the type of person that on vacation, needs to be jetskiing, not just tanning on the beach – hence why my image of Paris doesn’t match my lifestyle, unfortunately. I’m also the type to get bored very easily, and if I do, I can’t just sit around and let myself be bored – I have to go and find something to do, which in a way, is good to be living in a city, but not this one. I wouldn’t say I’m high-strung, but I have a lot going on in my mind and just too many concrete goals I have set for myself. A vacation here or a semester, I think, is the perfect amount of time to spend here.
But these feelings that I have could be and are probably temporary. We study-abroaders are all warned that there will be a honeymoon phase and a sharp dip aftewards, and I believe I’m just rising from that dip. I’m giving myself the opportunity to change, so hopefully I’ll plateau and just enjoy my time here, without criticisms or constant observations and comparisons. I think it’s just part of being away, from a culture almost the opposite of mine.
These are very much sweeping generalizations, but I think it’s fair to say that every country has a certain atmosphere and vibe to it. Honestly, people here aren’t ready to work (again, sweeping generalization – my host father works way past my bedtime). There have been debates about this issue because the work hours are slowly decreasing – by law – and vacation times are being extended. And if there is any hint of changing this leisurely way of life, strikes and protests happen. It’s hard for me to reconcile the French sense of nonchalance and coolness with the French need for change and revolution and rebellion. They’re content with life for what it is, but also never content. It’s just a very different place from the States or Seoul.
Seoul is one of the most fast-paced cities there are with people constantly attempting to flaunt their wealth or bar and restaurant-hopping to see and be seen – an Asian Manhattan, if you will. And then the US as a whole is the embodiment of the American Dream, where you work your way up from wherever to get to where you want to be – high-achieving, climbing the ladder, moving and resting and resting and moving. I’m not saying that’s the best way to live or the only way to live. If anything, I wish I could find a happy medium between appreciating life for what it is in the moment, but also being willing to work to meet my ambitions.
It’s just a big change for now, and I can already feel myself calming down and taking a breath. I’m almost positive that by December, I’ll be latching myself onto the nearest baguette, not wanting to leave. Thanks to a certain email from a very special friend, and some conversations with other people abroad, I know I’m not completely alone in terms of being less than 100% content with where I am. I guess that’s what transitions are all about. Observing, comparing, and then accepting. I can’t say I’m malcontent with the food, art, fashion, beautiful people, or passion here, and I don’t think I need to write another essay about why I love it here (we’ll save that for December), considering most of this blog is post after post of why I love Paris and what crêpe or tarte I had that day. It’s just a matter of getting used to the big picture.
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Beautifully written, and so very true. I had my own moments in England and India and….well, you’ll find your own rhythm (and I sound like I’ve found mine already — I haven’t) eventually. Keep on living the dream, albeit a Parisian version of it.