Five random things I don’t love about Paris

July 27, 2009 at 9:31 PM | Posted in Musings, Paris 2009 | 3 Comments

A yin to the yang of my previous post:

1) Yes, I know that Americans are wasteful and buy in bulk too much and should make do with less…but I really wish that I could buy a bottle of hair conditioner that is more than 6 ounces.  I plow through it in less than 2 weeks, and it’s becoming somewhat of a budget buster.  Also, when perusing the hair products at Monoprix today, I noticed that 80% of the hair gels etc are for les hommes.  Clearly, thick-and-wavy hair requiring more than a centime-sized dot of product is not en vogue pour les femmes.

2) Sometimes you just need to buy something on Sunday.  Or Monday.  Or after 7pm.  Or between 12:30 and 2:30pm. Or before 10am.  Or on holidays.   Or during the summer conges (vacation), which can encompass any or all of the period between mid-July and the end of August.  Or otherwise occur outside a 35-hour work week with 6 weeks of vacation and unlimited sick time.  And in that case, well, it’s either a tabac, an Arab market, or a dinner of pasta with butter for you (don’t worry Grandma, that only happened once). I love the spirit of the French labor laws, but dealing with the reality can be a bit more challenging.

3) Opening a bank account really does not require 25 documents in triplicate, the permission of five different people, three letters of attestation, signing my name seventeen times, and three weeks to process–all for the privilege of being charged hefty monthly fees. I shouldn’t complain though–the fact that I was able to open the account at all, let alone on the first try, is a not-so-minor miracle!  Incidentally, the reasoning behind my application’s eventual approval was “Well, you are a Harvard student, so I don’t think that there will be any problems.”  I really refrain from “dropping the H-bomb”–the only Harvard clothing I own is the free sweat band that we got at graduation–but it is nice to know that in a pinch, it does the trick.

4) Two words: dog shit. Everywhere.  Merde!

5) In all seriousness, it can be quite challenging living here.  For all the loveliness and chocolate and good cheap wine and joie de vivre, Paris can also be a lonely place, and one that can feel impenetrable to a foreigner.  I know that it takes time, but between the language and my relatively short stay here and the fact that most people I know are already on vacation, I have to admit that the past couple days have not been a 100% fun-filled adventure.  In between the adventuring and the fun, there is lots of alone time.  Which requires taking a deep breath and making myself go outside to read my book while sitting on the quays, which I’m about to do now.  OK, now I really do sound like a spoiled brat (poor me! I have to go stare at Notre Dame!), but as long as I’m being  honest, the past week or so has been a real personal challenge for me, and while character-building, it’s a challenge I will be somewhat relieved to leave behind when I head to Spain on Friday to meet up with my friends.

And I have to add a 6th…I have never seen such an odd (I’m refraining from saying stupid) keyboard in my whole life.  Who puts the a on the row diagonally above the left pinky? Can you think of a weaker position?  And while I fully understand the need to make é’s, è’s, and ç’s without having to push lots of extra buttons, deciding to do away with the numbers (you have to press shift) was a somewhat odd choice.



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  1. Does this mean that after staying there for the year, you’ll definitely come home to US (not the U.S., but US..your family and friends who miss you every second and can’t wait to get their arms around you for a huge hug!???????????) Now THAT is something to smile about. xoxoxoxoxoxox

  2. Hahaha! Does that mean you need a care package from the US with a Costco-sized shampoo/conditioner set?

    When do you get back? Hang in there!!

  3. You know, there are definitely several weeks during my own séjour there that I could literally have said the exact same things you just said in this post (except maybe for the hair gel part! 😉 And the bank account part – it took me about 2 1/2 weeks. Maybe I should have tried dropping an H-bomb). I know there are plenty of things that are frustrating – cultural adaptation can be very tiring no matter where you come from! One of the things I’ve found is absolutely key to urban living anywhere, though, is that after a time you have to know where and when to go to get what you need. Fact is, there are places and times when that’s a lot harder. But you know, I am not worried about you in the slightest. I know you can pull it off! After all, Paris is the New York of Europe in that “New York, New York” kind of way – you’re gonna make it! 😉

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