Hatchet Expat: Diffidence and decadence

When friends and family at home ask me what it feels like to live in Paris, I never seem to find an answer.

I always start by explaining the ways of the locals, describing the exquisite French food and pinpointing the difficulties I encounter speaking the language, but I rarely manage to give a concise depiction of what my semester in Paris has been like.

But I have come to fully realize everything there is to love about Paris while navigating the city’s underground.

Filled with borderline-obnoxious tourists, the Paris Metro brings together Parisians from all walks of life. From the child beggars hoping for some spare cash, to the comfortably dressed students sitting next to them, humility permeates the Metro. Despite peoples’ riches, they still use public transportation for their daily commutes.

The Paris Metro changed my attitude toward Parisians, who are often mistakenly labeled as arrogant citizens, unwilling to offer a helping hand. While they may be serious and sometimes cold in personality, “arrogance” is a term I could never use to describe Parisians. They are in fact anything but that, as I’ve witnessed countless commuters stopping to help the less fortunate.

I can’t help but feel sorry for those who deem the Metro too shady a place to spend more than a few minutes each day. While many evade the Metro at all costs, even if this means paying 20 euros for a 10-minute taxi ride, I insist on living like the average French citizen. When I return home, I want to be sure I experienced the true Paris.

As I reminisce on how my first few days in Paris were filled with nonstop sightseeing and photographing, I realize how naïve I was to the idea that being Parisian doesn’t just mean walking along the Champs-Élysées or strolling past the Eiffel Tower.

Instead, I acknowledge that living in Paris means being immersed in a “milieu of opposites” – wealthy and homeless, solemn and friendly, picturesque and grotesque.

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