[**This is a Repost from 2012: Ten years ago, I fulfilled a great passion of studying abroad at the Sorbonne university. This was also when I started my Frenchquest blog. I am reposting these incredible, otherworldly experiences of living in Paris for six months as a “non-traditional” graduate student.]
A Contrast in Views!
Last week the Director of our Sorbonne Language program told us that during these next six months, we would be facing some of the toughest challenges of our lives and that the key to overcoming these challenges was to realize that we are not in control of our environment anymore and to be flexible! This was much needed advice considering that I faced a second challenge this week in relocating to a hotel for a few days!
I am now staying in the 13th Arrondissement near the Peripherique (freeway) which is actually a suburb of Paris. I am seeing a different side of the city now, and probably a more realistic view of the daily life of a Parisian. In this suburb, one can find gas stations, a three-leveled mall, Chinese and Greek cafés and Pizza places, and high-rise apartment buildings. Yesterday it rained most of the day so I stopped into a Pell Mell to buy some rain boots because my Nikes were soaked! I have actually had several people ask where I bought my Nikes because they are a big deal in Paris. Of course, I wear them for comfort but it is nice to be “in”!
After my rain boot purchase, I went to the Mall to buy some groceries. The Auchan, is similar to a Sams, but much crazier! You have to rent your cart, buy your own bags, and be quick about weighing your produce! I think I will stick to the smaller markets in the future! There are many more conveniences here than in the central part of Paris and life seems to go at a much faster pace, but I will be glad to get back to my apartment in “old Paris” next week!
In contrast to the rainy, gray weather, the sun was shining today and temperature was perfect. Most Parisians really take advantage of sunny days because you don’t see them very often in the fall. The parks are full of families playing around the fountains and statues, rollerblading, and biking. Also, on the 1st Sunday of every month, all museums are free so after church, I went to visit a few of my favorites!
The Paris I love!!
One additional piece of sage advice from our director is that we should not rush to judgment about Parisians based upon our stereotypes of them. Do not judge their behavior based upon preconceived ideas or actions. Take a step back and access the situation, be patient, and don’t form quick opinions about people. Parisians are not as concerned with customer service as we are in the United States. They are paid to do their jobs and tipping here is optional and only around 10%. The clerks, waiters, and help staff are paid for what they do and it is not their goal to win and keep a customer. This advice has helped me to try to be more patient, lower my expectations, and not take it personally if I am not treated with special attention. Of course, once you have become a “regular” in a cafe or restaurant, then you don’t even have to wait to be seated. I am now treated to a special crepe by Mou Mou and Asiea at the local cafe and flan by Bruno !
I also survived the transportation challenge this week. The Tram I was riding on Tuesday suddenly came to a stop and all the passengers got off for a planned transportation strike. I followed my fellow passengers for about 2 miles to the closest Metro stop and proceeded on my way. A few minutes later, an announcement came on saying that a “suspicious package” was found in the Solferino stop (which of course where I had planned to get off) so we would bypass that stop. My long journey ended as I entered a RER (railway) that was filled with smoke and was very dark! Needless to say, everyone remained calm and just went about their way as this is supposedly the way of life that Parisians have become accustomed to!
Before coming to Paris, I was focusing on the academic challenges that lay ahead of me. Since I have been in Paris, however, this immersion experience has been mainly about adjusting to a whole new way of living and doing it independently. In the worship service on Sunday, as I sat and meditated during the beautiful music played by a hand-bell choir, I was reminded that my strength comes from the Lord and I am only able to face these challenges and new adventures through Him!
Copyright 2012 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)