“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there,”
Hemingway wrote in his Paris memoir, A Moveable Feast. And the longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve found this sentiment to be true.
I departed for Paris on the morning of August 28th. I spent the flight trying to catch up on the whole night of sleep I’d lost packing and finally realizing that I was leaving the country for four months. Having been born in Moscow and traveling back to Russia every other summer after moving to the U.S. with my family, I was no stranger to airports and suitcases and being thrust into a completely foreign environment. But I had never lived abroad, alone, for such a long period of time. I was a little anxious, but I was ready.
My first major realization upon arrival was the fact that I had very much over-estimated my French linguistic abilities. A student of the language since eighth grade, I assumed my French wouldn’t be perfect, but that I would pick it up quickly and be parler-ing français like a native in no time. I was very, very wrong. The broken Frenglish that came out of my mouth when I opened it to speak was downright shameful. I felt discouraged for a few more days, thought seriously about abandoning my nearly-complete French minor, and then decided to instead persevere, take four French classes, and make some major progress by the end of December.
Besides being able to speak decent French, I soon discovered a few other things I needed to know in order to embrace the Parisian lifestyle:
- Wine & bread are a must at every meal
- Don’t smile at strangers
- Take time to enjoy things, like your lunch, or rainy-free days
- Never walk and eat at the same time
- Don’t miss the Metro unless you want to take the night bus home (sketchy) or take a cab (spendy)
After a month and a half, I’m making progress in my integration, but I know it’ll be a long, long time before I really know Paris. And that most likely won’t happen before my departure in December.
Paris will never be simple, but that’s where its magic lies. Paris is rich. Paris has deep roots that make you want to tap into them and drink up all it has to offer. From the French Revolution to the Impressionism Movement to the wanderings of the Lost Generation, Paris holds what seems like a never-ending trove of information and inspiration, history and tradition. I’ve fallen completely under this city’s spell and I don’t intend to let it break anytime soon.