Thursday, January 10, 2008

Une Autre Point de Vue

Another point of view.

I just received an email from a dear friend of mine. She's French and grew up in the South of France, near Toulouse, but now lives in Paris.

She's lived there for nearly four years now, after marrying a native Parisien.

I think my friend fits in very well in Paris. She dresses like a true Parisienne, she lives like one, she appreciates the culture and everything Paris offers. She loved the idea of Paris....before she moved there. But an image in our mind is often much different than the one that comes to fruition later. As is the case with my dear friend.

No, she is not in a bad marriage. It's just that after a few months, the honeymoon phase of living in Paris wore off, and real life settled in quickly. Living in a minuscule apartment with sky-high rents in the suburbs of Paris was a start. Then the daily commute on public (often striking) transportation to an office job working too many hours under a chauvinist pig boss, making far too little money to indulge in a daily macaron and chocolat chaud at Laduree. Then the reality of having to make all new friends in a place where a "southern accent" is ridiculed, even though that seems to be where the sun hides itself from Paris. Enduring it all without family near by.

The Daily Grind can happen anywhere. Any place can become humdrum. This makes me think of the saying we all grew up with; the grass is always greener on the other side. Or the version I recently heard: the grass is always greener over the septic tank.

I'm not saying Paris should be compared with waste water treatment, but sometimes life gets in a rut as we go through the routine of work/sleep/play no matter where we live. Moving may help put some excitement into our lives and give us some much needed change, but at the end of the day, we still have to get the mundane things done and this is when the fantasy starts to fade.

*This was not intended to rain on any one's party, so to speak. I don't want to discourage any Paris dreams, I'm just reflecting on my friend's situation and trying to put myself in her shoes. It's also a moment for me to do a reality check and remember that picking up and moving my family far away didn't (and won't) make my life transform into a perfect fairy tale.


La Belette Rouge said...

Bonjour, Coco Chanel/Chantal/CC!
C'est vrai. ( Is that right?) I was trying to say, that is true. There is no place in the world, no matter how beautiful, that monotony, small annoyances, and the daily grind can't get to you. I wonder if that is why I can't imagine living in Paris forever. I don't ever want Paris to turn into an ordinary place for me. I need someplace to exist in the world that sparkles with extraordinary beauty.

I am so sorry to hear your friend is starting to see another side of Paris. I hope soon that she will discover that both are true. It is an ordinary city and it is extraordinary. The grass may not be greener in Paris. But there are things to love about wherever we are.

Nice food for thought, Coco Chanel!

Cris in Oregon said...

LBR said what I was thinking. Every where you go you take yourself with you. If your not happy within you wont be happy where ever you live. and the daily grind can happen anywhere. I wouldnt want to live in Paris either as then what would I dream about? She needs to take little trips to places she fell in love with and get to know that Paris again.
Good thought of the day.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Bonjour LBR,
Oui, tu as raison, "c'est vrai". Thank you for commenting, I was worried that I was going to be a wet blanket today, trying to rain on the Paris Parade.
I think you nailed don't ever want Paris to become an ordinary place for you. I think that is what France became to me, which is why I can easily find faults with it, but being away makes me also remember what I love about it. As hubby and I often say, "France is like home now, it's not exciting anymore." But there is great satisfaction in being able to be so familiar with another place that one can truly call it "home." It's a paradox.

I hope my friend will be able to convince her hubby to move away from Paris (because of in-law issues) and maybe it can be their vacation destination in the future, and she can partake of all the things that bring tourists much joy.

I do remember her hating Toulouse while she lived there, which brings me back full circle to the point that the grass is always greener.
I love my new name,LBR!
A tout,
Coco Chanel Cassoulet

Cassoulet Cafe said...

You are soooo right. We are always the same person no matter where we go. We can always be a better person, and so places can bring out the best in us, or make us discover qualities that we didn't project before. Or places can bring out the worst in us (as I've unfortunately seen).
At the end of it all, I realized that the same things that irritated me here in the US, irritated me in France. The same types of people that rubbed me the wrong way here, did so there, for example.
I found that there were flaws in MYSELF that I could no longer blame other people for.
I think living there made me a better person today. And I have lots of good stories.

wcs said...

"The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank" is the title of a book by the late, great, Erma Bombeck.

She was a funny lady!

Betty C. said...

Life in France has been "just plain life" for me for...well, it seems like forever! Maybe it's because I didn't move here as part of any big expatriation dream, even though it was to be with my husband.

Of course life here is full of the usual: work, school, household tasks, administrative duties...yet there IS something magic about it. It just takes some psychological motivation to realize it at this late date!

Since I've been able to capture pieces of my life through digital photography and share them with others through my blogs, I've started to appreciate it all over again, though.

b said...

This is a great post and in no way dampens my Paris spirit, although your note at the end was quite reassuring... thank you! :)

Part of evolving and progressing as humans entails that we yearn for more and move toward something. We do not want to be stagnant, so we yearn for a fuller life, for more excitement, more enchantment. I think there is a delicate balance here... evolving and pursuing dreams but without entitlement or a sense that attaining that dream or destination will be some kind of end-all happiness. We also don't want to overlook all the GREAT stuff that is here and now.

Daily life is daily life anywhere. And life will always contain mundane moments and alive moments. Thanks for this great reminder!

Gervy said...

Very thought-provoking. We are living in Sydney now (our hometown is Melbourne) and I am missing our life in London (where we lived for 2.5 years) and New York (where we lived for 6 months). I definitely view our time in those places as "La Vie En Rose"(!)

But the reality was that in London and New York, it was so cold for at least 6 months of each year that one didn't really want to leave the house. In New York, the summer was so hot that again, one didn't want to leave the house. In London, most of my time was spent working. In New York, when I wasn't working, I couldn't afford to do much. In both places, the bathroom still needed in cleaning. And in both places, I pined for my family.

But I miss living overseas desperately!

Angélique said...

Most expats begin life abroad, feeling that all is exotic and new. Then all these same exotic things turn infuriating.

However, if life will be a case of 'same problems, different country' ... might as well live in a country that you actually like.

And of course, happiness is a state of mind, and not a place.