Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Social Paris

Alright, this one is about social aspects of a city. Or maybe it is about how someone adjusts (or doesn't) to a new kind of social atmosphere. I talked to a friend who did a study abroad program in Greece, and she lived in a complex where all the other students from the program also lived. It was in the center of town and they all enjoyed going around the city together and experiencing all the new opportunities that the city has to offer as a group. Initially I was not sure what I thought about living with a host-family rather than a dorm situation in coming to Paris, but I love my host-family. And it makes all of us individually learn different parts of the city. But that is the thing--individually. I suppose I would say that I am used to Ann Arbor, where yes I do have to walk and go places to see everyone. But the truth of it is that two of my best friends lived with me, and another group lived less than a five-minute walk down the street. And in my home-town you drive everywhere. Everyone has to meet up somewhere that is probably at least a 10 minute drive away, but it works somehow; there is a system. Then moving to a big city and wanting to discover all of these different parts of it and things about it while also adjusting to the new atmosphere and balancing the academic side of it all somehow seems to complicate the social-ness here. For some reason I think that most people in a city have to be...hmmm..."more social beings" than people that are from rural areas. It isn't really acceptable to sit at home all day in the city, because there are a thousand things you could be doing and people you could be meeting! So if there are those days when it is raining and I have homework etc and I simply stay at the apartment, although that is what I want to do on that particular day, I feel like I am missing something. I have a friend who hates missing parties or events of any kind, she calls this fear "F. O. M. O," fomo. Fear Of Missing Out. But then again I think it is much more difficult here for all of us to meet up and get together since it seems to take much more effort to get everyone in the same place at the same time here...for whatever reason. And so in spite of my often severe "fomo" I will choose to forgo the situation and either stick to the apartment where I can do some reading and watch out my window wondering where everyone is headed (and always in such a hurry to get to) or I choose to do some exploring on my own. Obviously yes, we have had our group wanderings about the city and cafe finding and shopping and what-not, but I do think that it is, overall, a difficult social adjustment to make. I often take to wandering the city toute-seule and although I do tend to find some really neat things, or things that I really didn't expect to come across (especially in the 16th) I still think that this a city of meeting up with people, of being headed to somewhere where a group awaits you. I've often wondered how a Parisian would survive in Ann Arbor. I had a friend who was doing his graduate studies there, but his English wasn't great and he was having a rather difficult time about it. But on top of all of that, it is a place with about one/one-thousandth of the restaurant choices, hang-out places, stores, and people. Way less people. But how easily can someone adjust their social habits? When a group of us went to Spain in April it seemed easier to roam the city, get lost, discover new restaurants, because all the while you are enjoying the company of a group of people. It seems to be more difficult here to do that. Maybe it is simply that it needs more effort on our parts, or that the effort isn't always worth it to in the end have nobody be able to show up. Changing ideas a little bit here, I often wonder about the other parts of France--the country-sides that I have heard about and picture to be so beautiful, but also very isolated in their "campagne" settings. These people can't possibly have the social-mentality of always being headed somewhere and meeting people. Or maybe they do, I have never been to another part of France and would love to go, not only to see the area but to see the people--how different are they from Parisians? I guess it is like any city vs. a rural town. A New-Yorker would probably rather die than be moved to my home-town where it is rare to see someone walking around after 9 p.m. (unless it is summer, then maybe...). So how are some people so easily flowing in the hyper-social society while others are perfectly content to have their jobs and come home...and stay there. Yes, go out now and then, go to dinner, etc., but having to see and be seen isn't exactly the social concept that is at the center of most places in the world. But this is Paris--and I am still trying to understand it.

1 comment:

  1. Emily, as a one-time Paris resident (1999-2003) and an all-time flâneur, I'm drawn to your reflection and questions. Almost a decade later I'm still trying to understand Paris and Parisians! Keep wondering, keep wandering, and keep sharing your experience with those of us who love Paris and/or flânerie.