It's a miracle it took this long to come up with a show like "Emily in Paris". Give me a gaggle of American girls-- regardless of race, class or religion-- and I'll show you that [at the very least] 50% of them dream of visiting Paris one day.
And LIVE in Paris? That's a dream reserved for only the most daring of souls.
What if I told you that not only is it possible; not only can you go to France for a fresh start and a fresh croissant, but you can also go there to bask in everything that is wrong with the French, France and the world's most visited city: Paris.
Let me start with an apology: I'm sorry if I shit on your Emily-in-Paris-induced-dream.
Don't get me wrong, Paris is a wonderful place...to visit.
It can also be a fabulous place to live...if you're rich.
Well at least the food is amazing...if cream and butter are your staples/if you really enjoy an incredibly sauce-less existence/the mere suggestion of anything spicy gives you the runs.
It seems pretty internationally pervasive that Parisien life is chic, stylish, and basically everything that everyone should aspire to be. And I'm no exception! I too fell victim to this collective hallucination-- decorating every childhood (and early adulthood) space with the world's supply of Eiffel Tower paraphernalia or essentially anything with French on it.
France--and more especially, the French--just seemed so sophisticated to me. The pinnacle of European culture and fine cuisine: it was my ultimate childhood dream to move to Paris one day. I took French classes from an early age, continued with AP French in high school and eventually --after many 'twists and turns'-- ended up with a degree in French Language and Literature.
It's important to note that I am neither rich nor particularly privileged: I'm an your average, everyday daydreamer. Although Paris was my ultimate dream city, I never truly believed I could actually do it. In retrospect, you can move anywhere. But it's imperative to adjust your expectations. It is particularly important if you are a POC.
(Sidenote: if ever you should choose to really commit to the la vie Française, I suggest enrolling in a school [even a school to learn the French language] in order to gain access to a Titre de Séjour d'Étudiant, or if you're a lucky ducky maybe you could get some sort of work visa).
Bare in mind that as an American POC, I have my own experience of French life. In the States, for example, I was not made painfully aware of my race at every twist and turn, every taxi cab ride, or every Friday night apéro (apéro is an incredibly vital French word that means both pregaming and party).
When I first moved here in 2013 I was surprised at how often race would come up--casually--in conversation. French culture is not bothered by joking around about a minority group or even brazenly judging someone based on their appearance. It is all very banalized. Coming from a more or less politically-correct New York culture...I was shocked. More importantly, I was and I am offended.
To this day, 8 years later, I still find the French incredibly rude. Let me give you a recurring example. Everytime I take a taxi the driver is intent on discovering where I'm from. That in and of itself is not necessarily mean or rude, after all I do have a hard-to-place accent in French. What I find cliché-French is that said driver is never content with my answer of "USA". It's always "but where are you really from?" or, my favorite, (gesturing to the skin on his/her arm) "you have tan skin, where are you actually from?"
Now, let's be real. Of course this brazen attitude exists and can happen in the US. I am but all too aware of American ignorance. What is particularly annoying is that as a POC, I am not allowed to be American. Their view of Americans is blonde with blue eyes... clearly neglecting the millions of Africans that were stolen and enslaved...you know, that whole trade. What's even more frustrating is that this doesn't only apply to me, an American expat. This applies to everyone of color, French or otherwise. If you are not white and French, obviously you are [insert brown people nationality here] first then French second. Irregardless of the language you speak or the place you grew up.
This very outdated approach to race/culture is not just limited to taxi cab drivers, of course. It is an integral part of French society. At any given moment I know I am at the mercy of someone else's "curiosity". Oh curiosity! I pride myself on my unlimited amount of it! Yet living here has perverted this word that I hold so dear to my heart. The number of times I've found myself explaining (often at a bar or party around 1 AM in a tipsy haze) that "I am American" to which the person will undoubtedly respond "yes, but you're so tan! What are you real origins?" Preparing myself for that perversion of the word 'curious', I will grudgingly answer "I consider myself American, it's easier and it's my identity. Would you like me to draw you my family tree? Re-trace where my ancestors were stolen from?" Mister Baguette will answer assuredly, "you mustn't take so much offense! Us French, we are curious! You should take it as a compliment!"
Since when is it a compliment to be an object of curiosity?
Since when am I obliged to satisfy the 'curiosity' of a complete stranger?
The United States and the France have many things in common, one of them being their denial of the past and their implication in the creation of systematic racism. There isn't a single POC in France who would deny the implicit racism they experience here daily. Granted, France differs from the US in that slavery never existed on the mainland...but the colonies were an entirely different story. All of this to say, to each French naysayer, yes France has a racist past and present. And your guise of 'curiosity' leads me to believe that France's future is doomed for racism as well.
Outside of unabashed prejudice, I have more to tidbits to help deconstruct your Parisien delusion. I first visited Paris in 2012, when I was dating a French guy who lived in NYC with me. When he brought me to Paris, I fell head over heels with this city that I had glorified for so many years. It was as beautiful as I thought it would be! However, it was very much a dream and very much NOT reality. Sometimes we forget when we visit places that you are precisely that, a visitor. Living somewhere is entirely another thing.
Later, after we broke up and I found my way back to Paris regardless, I learned that he comes from an upper-class family and living in the center of Paris (Odéon) in a rather huge apartment is NOT the norm. In fact, it is the exception, like owning a penthouse on Park Avenue. When I first came in 2012 I was convinced that the Parisien life I always dreamed of was pervasive, attainable and being actively lived by all of its residents. This blog is dedicated to the harsh reality of Paris so I won't name everything that is right with this city, but let me tell you: unless you got money you will not be living the Parisien dream you see in films or leading the life you thought you would when you visited for a week in 2014. Like any big city, it is a struggle; a rat race.
Actual French life is so far removed from what we all fantasized about that there's even a name for the syndrome of realizing that Paris is just a big nasty city like the rest of them : Paris syndrome. The mere fact that they had to come up with a name for this syndrome speaks volumes: I am not the only fool out there.
Prepare yourself--assuming you're an average Joe like me--to start off in a chambre de bonne. Basically rich peoples' old maid quarters. Refitted to pass as EXTREMELY miniscule apartments (think the size of an average American walk-in closet) that you may or may not have to share the toilets with the other people on your floor (usually the 6th or 7th floor).
Quelle joie de vivre.
I wrote this with the intention of shedding some light on the "darker" side of Paris. The side of Paris you rarely hear about. The side of Paris a lot of people would rather ignore. Ignorance is bliss, afterall. But it's not all bad. Changing countries has profoundly changed me: it has not only opened my mind but now I truly feel like I can do anything. Not to mention that learning another language is a huge flex.
I could go on about the positives, I could even suggest where to visit, where to stay etc. But aren't there already 1,759,312 blogs on that subject? I wrote this to be real as possible. There are certain things I would've appreciated to know beforehand.
All and all, I moved here not only following a childhood dream but wholeheartedly with the intention of escaping a host of problems.
Word to the wise, I still have the same problems, they're just in French now.