It’s been ages ago since I last wrote a post in English. In fact, I’ve only ever written in English once and that was way back from Halloween speculating on Zombies and Sustainability.
So, in the hopes of catering to my anglophone audience every once in a forever… let me take this time to write about France and a few of its particularities that have caused me to scratch my head in bemusement.
1) Too Close To Swallow
It doesn’t matter how empty and numerous the number of free tables there may be in a restaurant. You can always count on being seated right next to the only other person in the place. It’s very awkward actually. There is nothing but space and empty tables all around you, yet you are smilingly directed by the restaurant host to sit at the tiny chair of a tiny table right next to someone sitting in their tiny chair at their tiny table. And so you’re forced to carefully squeeze past them, hoping to avoid rudely knocking their elbow aside as they cut into their steak tartare (raw ground beef). Once you’ve managed to squeeze into your tiny chair, you look around and wonder if the restaurant is expecting a large stampede of customers to flood in in the next five minutes. But it never happens.
Number 2. Don’t Mind The Poo
There is a puzzling juxtaposition between the eye-popping structures and magnificent architecture of Paris and the dog poo which litters the sidewalks. It’s very odd. Everyone is all posh, walking around with their little dogs. But then during your walks you will often encounter this land mine of poo through which you have to carefully step your way around. And I know there are poor idiots who step and slip on the stuff because I often see smear marks on the ground that could have only been the result of such rotten luck. From all this detective work I’ve been doing, I can only deduce that there must be an absence of a heavy fine for not picking up your doggy’s poo. If not in Paris, then definitely in Marseille. Oh god, let’s not talk about the poo in Marseille…
3) Furry Friends of The Homeless
It’s only here where I’ve seen this combination so frequently: homeless people + their very cute animals. Perhaps there is a positive correlation between the animal’s cuteness and the amount of money people dish out. I’m not entirely sure though, because one time when I tried to give money to a homeless guy, his little dog nearly bit off my hand! I shrieked and wondered if I should have instead given my money to someone with a cat. But then, I quickly recalled that one time I walked by a homeless man who was holding up his cat and choking him! Thinking back on it, I felt rather reprehensible for taking so long to come up with some angry phrase in french. A simple « Arrête! » would have sufficed. I have heard that homeless people keep animals because if they get in trouble, it keeps them from being sent to jail because the police don’t know what to do or simply don’t want to deal with their animals. But what I would really like to know is HOW the homeless get their animals in the first place. So far, all my efforts to adopt a cat here in France have been in vain–thwarted by massive fees and bureaucratic paper hoops that involve, not least of all, proof of residence. If adopting a pet requires having proof of residence, then WHERE do the homeless go to find their furry friends? ….right??
4) All The Ridiculously Good-Looking People Everywhere
How could there be so many ridiculously good-looking people everywhere? Endowed with all those silly stereotypes you’d ascribe to Parisians: slender, statuesque, chic, elegant, fashionable, surrounded by an aloof air of smoke and mystery… this was what I was thinking while sitting in a bar called Chez Georges at Saint-German des Près, wondering to myself « Is there an exclusive gene pool that survives only within Paris? » But the simple answer is no. Not really. Like so many other metropolitan cities in the world, there is certainly a greater proportion of attractive people who inhabit this city. But not any more so than in New York, London, L.A., etc. After a few months of walking around, you’ll also get to see quite a fair share of average looking faces. It just so happens that my first impression of Paris was greatly skewed when I found myself in the midst of a gathering of the.most.beautiful.parisians.ever. So if you like to surround yourself only with beautiful people, then I highly recommend you go to Chez Georges at 11 Rue Des Canettes. Take the steps down into a little cave, and there you will be entertained by great wine, people dancing on tables and all the yodeling you could ever want.
5) Sidewalk Drifters
This is the term I use for those oblivious people who amble aimlessly, won’t get out of your way, and drift in every direction you try to take to walk past them. They have absolutely no sense of remorse. They are completely oblivious to the nuisance and inconvenience which they cause to the person walking behind them. In other words, they really do not give a flying UFFFtck about you. And this happens all the time. So much so, that I’m beginning to think this type of meandering behavior is the norm here. I probably should just learn to calm down. I need to be walking slowly anyway, and keeping my gaze down for poo on the ground.
6) Can Openers from World War II
At one point it came down to survival: I had a can of tuna in one hand and a small metal wrench-thingamajig on the other. I had no idea what to do. I knew it was supposed to be a can opener because I’d looked around everywhere in grocery stores and it was the only thing I could find that had anything remotely to do with cans. Too hungry to venture out for a lunch alternative, I queried it on the internet, where I learned that here in France people are still using a barely updated version of the P-38 can opener (issued in the canned field rations of the U.S. Army from World War II to the 1980s). I then had the pleasure of learning through a YouTube video how to crack open my lunch. Mystery of the P-38 can opener solved!
*A word to the wise: If you ever find yourself with a P-38 can opener, be careful when you make that first puncture. Or else you’ll have tuna juice squirted in your eye.
7) Annoying Ambulances
Family Guy knows Exactly What I’m Talking About. Enough said.
8) Rollerblades Are Still Rolling
I love how the French have kept rollerblading alive. I haven’t seen a single rollerblader since… the 90s? But over here they’re still rolling! They’re no longer as popular though as back in the days when rollerblading was so hip that high school kids had their own rollerblade gangs. Maybe it’s time for the rollerblades to make a serious comeback. I myself am thinking about getting a pair and rolling around by the Seine on Sunday mornings. Also, this probably should have gotten its own category but I see heavy suited police people standing around with serious-looking shoulder pads and shin guards. But the police on rollerblades have no helmets! Something got overlooked there.
9) An Unusual Mastery of Culinary Terms and Techniques
Everyone seems to have received a memo on food and forgot to send it to me. Every time I eat with French people, I am always learning something new about food: the numerous adjectives of texture, flavor, and smell. The numerous cuts of meat: l’entrecôte, la bavette d’aloyau, bavette de flanchet, etc. All the precise ways that lettuce must be sliced and diced. The secret of how to make love to your food. And so on and so on. All I can say is: the French really know their food and they do it very well. So Bravo!
« If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. »