Paris is a place of work for me. I wake up early in the morning, eat some French yogurt, and take the packed métro to the Archives or the Library. If I’m feeling fancy, I stop by the boulangerie and get a pain au chocolat.
There’s nothing luxurious or adventurous about this routine.
Parisians have the infamous expression, “Métro-Boulot-Dodo”, which basically just means “Metro-Work-Sleep”. I sometimes identify with this phenomenon. I get lost in the pursuit of my research and suddenly forget that there’s an entire world around it.
Work days in Paris are quite similar to work days in Wisconsin. I do what I’m supposed to do and when I’m supposed to do it. My schedule is quite flexible, but I work hard at what I do, yet…it’s a routine–one that I’ve built in so little time, but a routine nonetheless.
Paris may seem luxurious and fascinating (and it can be), but it’s not. After doing (very few) touristy things, I realize just how different the tourist experience is from the I “métro-boulot-dodo” here. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Cœur? They’re all full of people and, sure, that’s the condition of living in a city, but it’s different. I seem to feel more at ease when I have a routine and when I meet up friends for a picnic outside of the city or a drink in our neighborhood.
I don’t care for the glamorous side of Paris. I don’t care for the weird stereotypes that we built up in our heads about European cities.
I care about genuine people, places, and emotions. I care about a job well done, a conversation over my lunch break or post-work drinks with friends. I care about connections, literature, philosophy and art….and, frankly, that’s hard to do in a sea of tourists waiting to capture the perfect shot.
The funny thing is that I am a tourist. I’m a tourist and I live here. I’m living abroad and I’m not living abroad here. I also do want a nice picture by the Seine or the Eiffel Tower, but I care about the experience too much to let that deter myself from it.
I don’t mean to sound unappreciative of the city, but there’s so much more to learn from it.