“I’d be in Paris now if I could afford it,” so said Audrey Hepburn in her role as Jo Stockton in “Funny Face.”
I must be honest: I have never lived in France. I visited Paris once and immediately fell in love with the city. Despite never having lived there I really want to give it a go. I mentioned this ambition to someone in passing and he immediately told me that is a terrible idea because France’s GNP is lower than the United States’.
Well, I am not much of an economist. I recognize the ups and downs and the burdens that accompany them (trust me, I graduated from college in the middle of the economy-driven low job market). But ultimately I am a dreamer, optimist, and poet and the reality is I don’t determine whether a place is a good place to live based on the GNP. Sorry, but that’s the truth (I’m actually not that sorry).
So, what follows are seven reasons France is a good place to live. If you must, take them with a grain of salt considering I haven’t actually lived there.
1. Baguettes and Cheese
You might be thinking, “Hey, I can get baguettes and cheese anywhere! This post is a rip off!” Well, calm down grasshopper. I bought a baguette in Paris when I was there. Stateside baguettes simply do not compare. The closest I ever had was a baguette my French professor made in college. Baguettes are just better in France (that probably has a lot to do with how food in France and other European countries is generally higher quality for various reasons, but that is an entirely different post).
And cheese. The number of different kinds of French cheeses reaches into the hundreds and I haven’t even begun to taste all those cheeses. But I am moderately obsessed with the moderately common brie. Give me brie and a baguette and I’m a happy camper. But here’s the rub: even brie that is imported from France is not “authentic” because it doesn’t use raw milk, which totally changes the taste. The United States has weird issues with raw milk so any imports must be pasteurized. I for one really want the raw, authentic, incredibly delicious brie. But apparently I have to go to France to get it (not that I’d mind)!
2. Maternity Leave
In France mothers receive 16 weeks of maternity leave. That is three months. And it is paid leave. Mothers receive 100% of their income whilst they are on leave, plus they don’t have to worry about losing their job in the meantime. This is not a benefit guaranteed in some countries (cough, United States). I find that to be pretty neat-o. And I’m sure all those new babies do, too!
3. The Privacy
I live in a society that is loud and invasive. There have been many times when I haven’t felt inclined to spill my life’s story to a stranger (not too odd, right?) and said stranger becomes aggravated and offended, like I called him or her a dirty name. My personality is a balancing act between openness and privacy. I’ll give you the real me, but only on my own terms. Try to force it out of me and I will probably hide (see introvert’s hamster ball).
The French are very private. They won’t try to make me feel guilty for not sharing something I don’t feel like sharing. The idea of living in a place like that really makes me feel calm. Not a terrible feeling, calm.
So, anyone reading this who knows me personally might be thinking, “huh?” It’s true, fashion is not my top priority. However, I like the way the French do style and shopping.
First of all, if you go to Paris and people-watch, you will see some of the best dressed people around. But it won’t be blase, typical “good fashion.” It will be interesting and creative, which in my view of fashion, is what it’s all about anyway.
Second, I am a big fan of a few high-quality (therefore usually more expensive) items in lieu of a closet bursting with low-quality, cheap clothing. If I catalogued my closet, the list would be very short. But, what I wear looks great as opposed to cheap and ill-fitting. French fashion is about quality over quantity. Which I love!
I have heard time and time again that French people are rude, especially to travelers. I’m sure plenty of travelers have met rude French people. And I know my experience can’t speak for everyone else’s, but when I was in Paris people for the most part were kind, helpful, interesting to talk to, everything one would hope for in a new acquaintance. In fact, the only people I had trouble with weren’t even French!
Here is what happened my first day in Paris: I couldn’t figure out the metro system. I was trying to get from Gare du Nord to Gare de Bercy via le metro. I was staring at a map, quite bemused. A gentleman approached me, which at first made me quite nervous because I was alone and lost. Not a good combo. But he asked where I was going, told me which train to catch, where to transfer, and which direction to walk when I got off. He even showed me the way to the right train. He was quite nice, and more importantly to a solo traveller, not creepy at all!
In France, meals are to be enjoyed instead of rushed. Meals are a delicate and delicious combination of flavors instead of thoughtlessly thrown together at the last minute. They are often prepared using ingredients local to the region. The food culture is generational, older than the oldest Frenchman.
With this in mind it’s no wonder Julia Child said, “In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.”
A list about why France is a good place to live isn’t complete without focusing a bit on Paris.
I am not a city-girl by any means. I love wide open spaces, mountains, dirt roads, the smell of wild grasses and sage. Small towns and wilderness are my forte. So it came as a surprise when I arrived in Paris and after a mere 30 minutes felt like Buddy the Elf when he shouts, “I’m in love! I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!” Only, I was in love with a city.
The energy of Paris is something I am not quite sure I could put my finger on even if I stayed there for years. Some of the best writers and poets and painters have tried for centuries. But even they cannot prepare one for what it is like to be in Paris.
Paris is a realm all its own.