12 months later... Paris is just not that into me
Have you ever heard of Paris syndrome? Suffered most commonly by Japanese tourists, it is the state of acute disappointment encountered on travelling to Paris for the first time and realising that the city does not live up to the ideals expected of it. Not to be scoffed at, Paris syndrome can manifest itself in a range of symptoms: delusional states; anxiety; depression; and even physical symptoms such as dizziness, sweating and vomiting. Poor Paris - it is such a disappointment that it’s making the Japanese puke!
For me, Paris has always represented so many ideals: the effortless style, the exceptional food and wine, the frustrating yet undeniably beautiful French language, the claim of being the birthplace of both Impressionism and Existentialism (two movements which ceaselessly captive and inspire me) and the quintessentially Parisian attitude of not giving a fuck.
Twelve months ago, when I was given the unexpected opportunity to move to Paris, I felt like all my Christmases had come at once. I had never really considered living in Paris, mostly because up until that point I didn't see it as a feasible possibility: I hadn’t spoken French since high school, and even then it was nothing to write home about (is it just me, or is the instruction of languages in Anglophone schools the biggest joke ever?). But suddenly it seemed as if the move was going to transform my life, and transform me! I was going to lead a glamorous lifestyle sipping cocktails on rooftop bars, dressed in outfits from the latest Marais designer, while chatting in flawless French with a different — yet equally cute —Parisien each night.
What has followed could not be further from these imaginings. I arrived in Paris during the month of May 2016: there were strikes of both the metro and the garbage collectors (!!), the Nuit Debout protest movement against Labour law reform was taking place in the Place de la République, and significant flooding had seen the Seine rise to its highest level in over 100 years. Maybe I should have seen my Parisian welcoming party as an ever-so-slightly ill omen.
I went on to experience a series of real-estate misadventures. My first apartment was in a gorgeous street in St Germain… where a jazz band turned out to play beneath my window sometimes until 1.00 in the morning. Things starting looking up with my second apartment, which was much more reasonably priced, freshly renovated, and in my favourite arrondissement of Paris… until I discovered a pernicious mould problem (yukkkk!). Oh, and let’s not forget the time that I found the perfect share house: on my favourite street in Paris, with two cool guys (one of whom had lived in Australia for some time - FTW) and TWO balconies (more importantly!)… only to be told the day after being chosen as the new roommate, that the old roommate had had a huge fight with her boyfriend and was no longer going to me moving out with him.
And if you think my real estate experiences have been bad, you should hear about my dating experiences. I have learned the hard way not to give out your number to the guys who font la drague dans la rue (try to pick up on the street). I have contracted food poisoning on a first date (quite possibly as a result of Paris syndrome). Due to the language barrier, I once thought that a guy was inviting me to a mini break in Lyon when in fact he was just asking me if I wanted to go to the movies. Oh, and one time (my personal favourite!) I broke my nose in the bed of a guy I was seeing (it didn’t happen how you think and I don’t even know if that makes it any better).
On top of that there are the constant challenges of learning a new job and trying to integrate yourself in a new city. It turns out that working in Communications in a language you don’t speak fluently is really tough (surprise!), and the French working culture is completely different to what I expected. While I have eventually met some really awesome friends in Paris, I have found that making friends with Parisians is difficult as fuck (for a list of reasons that definitely deserve a blog post in their own right).
Bref, I came to Paris expecting my dreams to come true and instead I have been met with nightmare after nightmare. I love Paris, but am forced to consider that maybe Paris doesn’t love me. At the twelve-month mark I have honestly been left wondering if it’s all worth it. As I have joked to my friends, maybe Paris is “just not that into me”, and I would be well-advised to stop chasing it.
In the end I decided to defy the moral of the 2009 movie and stay in Paris (I never heed sound romantic advice when it comes to dating, so why should I when it comes to cities?). It’s true that living in Paris is not easy. It may never get easier, and it may be that I reach a point where I have no more energy to throw at it. But for the time being Paris is a big adventure — one that I sense is not yet over. And although it has been exhausting and demoralising and disappointing over the past twelve months, Paris has also been exhilarating and inspiring and illuminating.
Paris is just not that into you is a gift to myself, and hopefully to you, in deciding to stay in Paris. In recounting the everyday struggles of expat life in Paris, I hope to be useful to others who are going through similar experiences (or to those who just want to have a laugh at my own expense — that is also fine LOL!).
I hope you will join me for the ride! :)
Have you ever been disappointed by Paris? Would you stay if you were me?