Fed up of corporate whoredom in the financial services centre in Dublin, on a whim I gave up stability and a decent salary to work irregular hours in a wine shop for a pittance. Four months later and several kilos lighter, I was fired for my lack of cutthroat sales nous.
Image Daniel Go via Flickr
So much for doing what you love! Thus, possessed of a brother in Paris with a couch, I took it upon myself to seek my fortune or some semblance of satisfaction at least. Sure why not?
3 years later, my trousers are absurdly tight, I have floppy hair and I can smoke a cigarette with some serious attitude. The thought of living somewhere without terrasses is abhorrent. Going more than 15 minutes without seeing a monument is terrifying.
If I haven’t helped an Asian person to get the perfect holiday snap in a day or two, I get withdrawals and if I haven’t been indignantly hissed at by a Parisian or nobody has said, “c’est pas possible” for more than an hour regarding an eminently possible thing, I feel a little out of sorts.
Image Kristijonas Dirse via Flickr
Parisians love to complain about the Metro. Parisians love to complain but the Metro is an absolute miracle. Once you live inside the peripherique (the old city walls more or less), you can get pretty much anywhere within a half an hour or less.
Image Paris Metro. Jean-François Gornet via Flickr
If I have the time, I take the bus – it’s like a free tour because as I said, there are monuments, recognisable and significant everywhere as well as ones you’ve never even heard of and you need a notebook to keep up with in order to look them up at home and make plans to visit later.
Parisians will make you hate Paris but you mustn’t. They are Parisians. They are not Paris. If you wish to survive here and not become as embittered as say, Parisians, then you must draw the distinction. It is the eternal goal or indeed solemn duty of the Parisian to obstruct.
If you haven’t made an inconvenience of yourself and ideally asserted that it was right and proper of you to do so at least once daily, then you are simply not doing it right. There are so many opportunities to indulge in this very Parisian activity all around.
The pathways are slender so stopping to look at a sign in a shop window and forcing the other pedestrians onto the frankly hazardous (and also slender) roads is very fashionable in Paris. Demonstrating to inconvenienced passers-by via Italian-esque hand gestures who foolishly complain (expats), that you are simply exerting your right to look at a sign in a window for a theatre piece that is in fact no longer playing is de rigeur.
Had you known about it, you would probably have gone and informed all and sundry that you had enjoyed it immensely and were sorry that they had missed it themselves and that they really should have gone.
The absolute ideal moment to stop and text or express awe at an item in your newsfeed (c’est pas possible!), is just after you leave the turnstyle in the Metro entrance or exit (which, if you are any kind of Parisian at all, you will have clogged up trying to get your train pass to validate from inside your purse or handbag (manbag), rather than simply taking it out).
Image Simona via Flickr
Other opportunities exist at turning points in tunnels between platforms or if you are a true connoisseur of being a nuisance, you will simply stop midstream and force literally hundreds of people to go around you (underground and over).
Once your train arrives of course, you will step onto the carriage and stop again forcing the hordes behind you to go around you. There is a niche culture here in certain quartiers as well where the crowds are so revolting and voluminous that they will simply charge through you. You must then of course act indignant, after all, your right to be a pain in the arse has been taken from you wholesale.
Driving in Paris makes demolition Derby look like Noddy and Big Ears going for a jaunt. Parking is an artform and Parisians do it better than any. The invention of the teeny tiny Smart car has seen the arrival of the perpendicular park which once having become a thing was latched onto by all and sundry including people carriers.
Image Driving Champs Elysées. Rodrigo SEPÚLVEDA SCH via Flickr
Do not be surprised if in order to carry on your jolly way you have to descend into the (perilous) road to get around a soccer Mom’s Chelsea Chariot and under no circumstances must you trust the pedestrian crossings.
Check thoroughly before proceeding as Parisians don’t only see hesitation as weakness but once having ventured onto the zebra crossing, if the space between you and the pathway in front of or behind you is unoccupied, it will not remain so for long as speeding scooters followed by cars, vans and a Tik Tuk kind of thing cycled by a thoroughly fed up looking man blasting dance floor tunes at 8am will soon occupy it.
This is not a licence for you to jaywalk though. The other road users hate that and will speed up and aim for you.
Parisians are famously thin and grumpy. It’s because they are hungry. They are hungry because they either haven’t eaten (smoking is the preferred diet of your bony Parisian), or they have eaten and the portion in the restaurant was too bloody small.
All restaurants – Portions are too bloody small. The food is delicious (you get used to that eventually and start complaining about it the longer you live here), but insufficiently copious. Your Sunday is incomplete if you have not queued for at least half an hour outside the boulangerie.
Image Paris by Mouth via Flickr
There may be a boulangerie around the corner with nobody in it but this boulangerie has a queue and is thus better. You know this because of the queue and the Parisian love of swarming and compliance. Thou shalt not stand out!
Afterwards, you may decide to go for a drink. They mean it though. They will go to the brasserie/café and have one drink. For an hour. As an Irish person, this is weird. Some of us Paddies pride ourselves on how many drinks we can get in inside of an hour, not how few.
Rillete is the most delicious thing to be found inside a can that is impossible to open. They’ve been keeping it a secret from us. You thought pate was good, right? Cat food! Rillette is the food of the Gods and should be spread thickly on a fresh baguette (for which you have queued).
Words – Baz Morningstar