A New Yorker’s Stray Observations of Paris

When I moved from Miami to New York to start my first year of college, I knew that I was in for a world of change. That was pretty much the reason why I wanted to go out of state for college in the first place. Within that first year, within even the first few weeks, I noticed some distinct differences between the two places. To name a few: The public transportation system in New York put the public transportation in Miami to shame. Miami fashion is tropical and vibrant, while New York fashion constantly favors dark hues. And one no-brainer: no matter how warm or humid it is in New York, it will always be hotter in Miami.

And if moving from Miami to New York was a world of change, then moving from New York to Paris was basically a whole new galaxy of change. Apart from some obvious things (like the language barrier, for one), I began to notice some little things that caught me by surprise. Now that I’ve spent roughly a month here, I’ve tuned in on some key distinctions between The City that Never Sleeps and “La Ville Lumière.” And with that, here are 5 of this New Yorker’s observations of Paris:

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  1. Got H2O?: When you go to a restaurant in the United States, water is usually brought to the table, and refilled throughout your meal, free of charge. In Paris, you have to ask for water, and if you don’t specify tap, they bring you bottled or sparkling. In most cases, ordering a bottle of water is more expensive than ordering a coffee or a soda. While you can easily buy a bottle of water from a hot dog cart in New York City for $1, doing the same in Paris would be miraculous.
  2. Errer est humain, flâner est parisien: Anyone who has lived in New York for a significant amount of time knows that time is of the essence. Everything in the city is faster, especially the walking pace. While I’ve definitely mastered the quick NYC pace, I’m still far from beginning to comprehend the French art of “flâner”, which is basically walking slowly and enjoying your surroundings. I think that this is a beautiful concept that is key to understanding the mentality of the French, but that doesn’t mean my professors will accept “I was learning to flâner” as a valid excuse for being late to class.
  3. Café Culture: Speaking of getting places on time, if you’re about to sit down at a café for a nice coffee or pastry, you’d better make sure you don’t have anything to do for the next two hours. People actually like to take their time to eat here, which is a nice change from being asked to leave a restaurant in NYC because they need your table. Bring along a book or a friend, just relax and enjoy your meal.
  4. No Post (or anything else) on Sundays: One of the best things about New York is that no matter what time of day it is, you’re guaranteed to find SOMETHING open every day of the week, whether it is a 7/11, a CVS, or even a McDonald’s. In Paris, the city practically shuts down on Sundays. A few areas of the city are open, like The Marais, but expect your local grocery store to be packed around closing time on Saturday nights.
  5. Metro pro: Although New York’s public transportation is one of the best in the United States, it’s still a mess. Trains are regularly delayed, the stations are dirty and smelly and it is embarrassingly easy to accidentally enter on the wrong side of the platform if you’re not careful. Paris’s metro system, by comparison, is a dream. Trains can be expected to arrive every 5-7 minutes, the stations are spotless, and the platforms are decked out in helpful signs that indicate the direction, all of the stops on the line, and even the arrival time of each train.

Since I’ve moved here, I’ve had friends ask me if I think Paris or New York is any better than the other. I’m a New Yorker at heart, and will defend New York until the day I die, but there are some things about Paris (the sheer amount of history, the BAGUETTES) that New York will never be able to live up to. To me, New York and Paris are two of the most beautiful, vibrant cities in the world. They somehow have the ability to be so closely similar, yet worlds apart.

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