Monday, April 23, 2012

Paris: Overrated?

Don't get me wrong, I love Paris. What's there to dislike about lounging on cool grass in front of the Eiffel Tower at dusk with a bottle of cheap wine? Who could hate that wondrous feeling the first time you witness the iron lady light up like a 1,000-foot Christmas tree?

(Let's all pretend that I filmed this video sideways on purpose to give it an artsy feel, rather than that I had no clue what I was doing.)

There's a lot to love about Paris, but there's also a lot to hate. Like crowds of tourists and McDonald's franchises. But tourists flock to any place worth seeing. And there's just no escaping McD's. I wouldn't be surprised to climb Mt. Everest or K2, and just as I reached the summit, I'd see the golden arches rise up out of the mist ready to sell me greasy cornburgers and carbonated sugarwater. These are problems that arise in every country, and so surely are not the reason for my less-than-loved-it feelings toward my experience in Paris.

Some people complain about the lack of hospitality shown by the French. Honestly, I didn't experience this. I found the locals warm and forgiving of my American ignorance if I smiled and attempted some form of "bonjour, parlez-vous Anglais?" Even in the rare instance when a Parisian was not friendly, I can understand why. How would we Americans react if every year millions of foreigners flooded our cities, ignoring our laws and customs and insisting that we accommodate their every need, from speaking their language to serving only foods they eat back home? I'll tell you how some Americans react: they get really racist and develop a strong hatred toward the foreign intruders. However, many other Americans react with hospitality, happy to show off their city and use the situation as a chance to gain fresh perspective on the world outside of their own small lives. I think Parisians react in a similar way. Yes, there are the few bad apples who hate you just because you're a foreigner. However, the majority seem to abide by a simple rule: if you are nice and respectful toward them, they will be the same toward you.

So what is it? Why do I feel disappointed, like somehow Paris has let me down? Perhaps I came to Paris with too high of expectations, or perhaps the wrong expectations. Before I even set foot in France, I had a mental picture of exactly what my experience in Paris would be like. In all the cities I've visited, I've never started with such a narrow view. I've always made a point of keeping my mind open to the possibilities. When my experience in Paris didn't turn out exactly the way I had imagined, I guess I felt let down. If I ever get the chance to return, I'll be sure go with no expectations and just let my feet take me where they will.

That being said, I still very much enjoyed my visit to Paris. Someday soon I will share my experience. For now, here's just a taste:


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