The War of Paris
Now I’m not writing here to dissuade you from your dream of visiting, nor am I writing to tell you that I am less in love with my beautiful city since coming here.
But the fact of the matter is that daily I am being met with the same question from people back home: “How’s life in Paris? You look like you're having so much fun! What’s it like over there? It must be amazing.”
After moving to Paris three months ago, I haven't had much of a chance to write or produce anything on my newly formed blog. Part of this was because I was still adjusting to how incredibly different France is from America. It was a surprise that I knew was coming but didn't know to what extent it would go. There are hints of American culture everywhere around me, trying to force itself into Europe like flies on food. But the French are stubborn, and hold strong to their culture with a fly swatter in hand.
I absolutely love my city.
But when people ask me what Paris is like, I will not lie to them. So here I write my view on Paris, not meaning to offend anyone nor persuade them not to come here. But if you live in Paris and you are reading this, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about and will probably agree.
And If you're a study abroad student from America… You definitely understand the amount of change that one goes through when coming here.
Paris, to me, is a war.
Being online and seeing people’s snapchat stories and Instagram photos from the states brings a weird feeling to me. I see all of my high school friends having the time of their lives in their colleges all over the country. But I know that they have not seen the same things I have, nor experienced the same things either. Because Paris is a different world, not just from America but from the rest of France as well. In saying it’s a war, I mean that the only people who understand Paris and all of the secrets it holds, are the people who are serving beside you.
Talking to people back home makes me uncomfortable.
They don't understand.
They ask “how is Paris?” and I can try my best to explain its complexity but there are not enough words to describe.
Yet I will attempt to explain anyway.
First off, Paris is an incredibly disgusting city. And while it’s dripping with culture and beautiful gothic architecture at every corner, the city itself is unkempt and just straight up gross sometimes. This could partly be because France is so socialist that they can never get anything done, but instead spend most of their time striking and protesting for more time off; their workers love to strike more than anything.
A daily ride on the metro looks like this:
Imagine an old subway car that is usually kept neat and clean, until you attempt to shove 70 people into one car. The entire capsule smells like sweat and odors with an undeterminable source. You are pressed up against the door, your face practically squished up on the window. Here is where a French man (usually drunk) will attempt to hit on you. He’ll lean in close (because there’s “no room”) and he’ll smile at first without saying anything. This is when you continue to stare outside the window with no reaction whatsoever. He’ll move closer and touch your shoulder and attempt to talk to you in a seductive tone. His breath smells like cigarettes. You, in exchange, turn around startled like you didn't know he was there, and suddenly break out into sign language. He tries again and again to talk to you. But you are used to this, and you are a wonderful actor through repeated practice and you continue to feign a hearing problem. He finally walks away frustrated and dismounts the train. As the doors are closing, you look him in the eye and say loud enough for him to hear: “connard.” And he looks over pissed off and angry that you had tricked him because he sees that you are not actually deaf. But the doors close and you are left there smiling to yourself coyly and with silent triumph.
These games continue and never sleep.
Most often times you will have to change your trains more than once to reach your final destination. Parisian metro stations that are bigger with more than one line, (like Châtelet which is my own personal hell), are labyrinths with awful signage. In the maze of tunnels and people, you always see at least one man with his pants down who’s peeing in the corner, all over the wall and the floor around him, perfuming the station with his territorial scent. Then there are the homeless who sleep in corners under bundles of blankets, and the asshole cops who make them get up and exit into the bitter cold of winter outside. Then there are the young couples who have zero concept of PDA and you have to watch them make out on a subway bench half naked. And also the beggars who try to guilt you into giving you money (most often times a scam) but you continue to act cold and distant because only tourists give them money and cigarettes. And as you ignore them they hit you with awful french insults saying what a cold hearted bitch you are. But you take it and say nothing in return.
Because this is how Paris is, and this is (quite often) how French men are.
There is a stereotype that I’ve noticed being true in many instances, and I will back this up with personal experiences. French men in general, are more forward. In varying amounts, this could mean they are less afraid to talk to someone new, or hit on a girl and ask her out, or otherwise harass a woman walking down the street. This obviously happens everywhere in the world because shitty people exist everywhere. Full disclosure, I hate stereotypes and I don't at all think that this idea accurately represents all of France. My boyfriend is French and is the complete opposite of the disgusting pigs I’ve had the displeasure of meeting in the street. But I have met a lot of the same type of people throughout my time here.
Paris at night is a different city than Paris during the day.
And by different city I mean… a completely different world. The two cities are not the same city they are independent entities from each other.
Unfortunately night is the best time to go out to clubs and bars and participate in the social life that comes with living in a city, (since most Parisian clubs don't open until midnight).
Since coming here, I have had more experiences with sexism than ever before.
Of course this was the first time I truly experience nightlife.
There’s an area of Paris called Bastille which is in the 11th arrondissement.
Slightly to the east of Bastille is a road called Rue de Lappe which is soaked in different bars and clubs illuminating neon taboo. Here was where we spent our first night “out on the town” at a bar called Shoteria. Now for whatever reason we love this bar even though it was disgusting and not a good bar at all, looking back at it, it is more the encapsulating of fun memories that make this bar everything we wanted it to be. Inside it is hot with lights and steam and a DJ playing in front of a mini dance floor. But outside is not so fun. There are drunk people slithering in the street like snakes. This was really my first experience dealing with drunkards since in the states the drinking age is 21 and I had never been subjected to bars and clubs like this before.
This was a whole new world to me:
There’s someone stumbling down the road drunk off his ass and vomiting against some closed shop.
Theres a fight breaking out, two men fighting and several civilians trying to stop them by standing there and videotaping it. Someones head gets bashed in against a wall and blood paints the night floor.
There are smokers everywhere, always asking for a cigarette or a lighter.
There are the homeless (or the extremely drunk) who are passed out on the sidewalk.
And then there are sleazy men, who strut up and down Rue de Lappe looking for someone to go home with most likely. Here is where they hunt. They throw insults at you and try to “pick you up” and you ignore them like you always have.
Sometimes they grab your arm, or your ass, and you fight like crazy inside not to punch them in the jaw, because you know that if you do this would be the start of a fight.
And you know he's much stronger and that you wouldn't win.
And you want to go home alive that night.
I have seen people brutally beat each other, I have seen women being verbally abused and sexually assaulted. I have seen the brave civilians who try to step in and stop the insanity and call the police. I have seen the overdosed laying in the streets. I have seen my friends attempt to hurt themselves. I have been lost in the middle of Paris with no way to get home and no money in my wallet.