with the Real Paris
by Laurel Avery
Friends have recently
accused me of complaining about France a lot.
It’s true, I do gripe about many things here, but I complain about
things wherever I live. Hey, I grew up in New York. We complain
Moving to a new place,
whether it’s the next town or a whole ocean away, is like starting
a new romance. At first everything is wonderful. You only notice
the best things about the other person and everyone is on their
best behavior. Sure, there are some little quirks about them, but
you consider them charming.
After about three months
those little quirks that you once found charming begin to become
a bit annoying.
At about the six month
point in the relationship, reality sets in. You see the person for
who they truly are, flaws and all. At this point you either decide
to move on, or there are enough good points about the person to
stick around, despite the flaws which have always been there that
you never chose to see. You learn to make compromises and adapt,
and the relationship deepens.
Paris, like any other
city, is just like that. Everyone has a romantic image of how life
is here, and to some extent, they are correct. But when you live
here you’re not sitting around sipping champagne every day, dancing
to accordion music and listening to Edith Piaf — though that does
Daily life consists of
dealing with heat that’s gone on the fritz, bank machines that don’t
work, never being able to find shoes in your size, going to ten
different stores just to complete your shopping list, not making
your appointment on time because there is a transportation strike,
and a myriad of other things that comprise everyday life in France.
Just because you’re in a new place doesn’t mean all your difficulties
But I wouldn’t want to
live anywhere else.
The health care system
here is spectacular. If Americans knew how it could be there would
be massive protests until they got the same service in the U.S.
I recently caught a virus that was going around, and went to a friend’s
doctor. The waiting room was like a living room, and there was no
receptionist demanding proof of insurance when I walked in. After
a short wait I was ushered into the doctor’s office by the doctor
himself, who spent almost half an hour with me, taking down all
relevant information himself.
The doctor was professional,
but also very personable and I didn’t feel like just a number. He
prescribed three medications, then handed me the bill. All of 27
euros! And those who pay taxes in France are reimbursed for 80 percent
of that amount. Such a thing is unheard-of in the U.S. On top of
that, my three prescriptions came to under 12 euros. Yes, they pay
more in taxes here, but they actually get something in return.
You can get a delicious
loaf of bread, hot out of the oven for only 80 cents, coffee that
doesn’t taste like it was scraped from the underside of your car,
outdoor markets every day selling produce fresh from the farm, wine
you can get by the pitcher that is drinkable and inexpensive, and
shopkeepers who know you by name.
Some doctors still make
housecalls, you can get efficiently from one side of the city to
the other by metro for only one euro, waiters will not rush you
through your meal to turn the table as often as possible, and people
don’t look at you like you’re a bum if you tell them you are a writer
or an artist.
I doubt I will ever stop
complaining about the things that annoy me, but I plan to stay with
this city for a while, flaws and all.