First Impressions

It's been almost four months since I moved to Paris.  I have yet to write a post about my Parisian life.  I've been trying to reflect on why I've been procrastinating with my inaugural Paris post. There is the usual speil -  the whole trying to find an apartment, trying to settle, too much work bit that has become part of my daily routine of excuses for things I have not yet found the time for.  Truth be told, there is a little bit of apprehension that I'm supposed to be an expert now.  I've had a few e-mails come my way asking "what's the best thing to do", which have the odd effect of stressing me out.  I still don't know what time the metro lines really close, where I can get bread on Sundays or even how I can make a doctor's appointment.  How can I possibly know all the hip and cool things to do?!  (Deep breath.)  I know I'm being too hard on myself, but I want to be able to embody the cool Parisian expat to its fullest.

I finally figured it out though, as I began to talk to more people and they began to ask me questions about the move, what I love about France, etc.  People assume because I'm American that this is a big shock for me.  Really though, I've had the privilege of visiting France on so many occasions, I have a few French friends, I speak the language - the change hasn't been as drastic as one would expect.  And because I already feel like I know the place a little bit, I can't say that I feel the same magic as I would have had I done this on a whim.  There is a calm satisfaction of having attained my dream of moving here, but not the crazy excitement I might have felt if I did this five years ago, when I'd made eight less trips to France and my French was becoming a distant memory.  And because the thing I could articulate most quickly were all the things that were different and making my life difficult, this had given me Paris related writer's block.

But I couldn't let my complaining Polish side get the better of me, so the optimistic American Jackie went in search of the magic of being somewhere new, of starting a new life in a foreign land, even if the land wasn't so new to her.  I asked the visitors who passed through, I reread my journal from study abroad, I made a mental note to try to avoid the pee smell when I passed the train station and to take in the other, more pleasant details.  I took out the gold Eiffel Tower pendant that I bought myself when I was 16, the first time I came to France.  I twirled the chain between my two fingers, so the tower would spin and sparkle and I tried to coerce out the sixteen year old girl who bought it -- what she was feeling, what it represented to her.  She fell in love with this place and nearly 15 years later, she was living in it.   And in the end, I was still her, only with a few more years of experience.  :)  There was a reason why I was drawn here.   Slowly it began to seep back into my mind...

- Food is an experience.  Ingredients are beautiful and fresh.  Presentation matters.  My pastry doesn't come in a plain white box.  It comes in a pastel colored treasure chest, inscribed with gold letters that spell L-a-d-u-r-e-e.  I wholeheartedly believe it is made with love and after this little treasure is delicately placed in its treasure chest, it is wrapped with love and sealed with a bow so none of the love spills out.  I take it home, with an extra bounce in my step and I get a little chill of delight, yes delight, when I open it up and finally get to eat it.  And no one will ever say I "pigged out" on this indulgence, they will call me "gourmande", or a little gourmet, and I can live with this.  After all, it's true!

CJ and I enjoying a Ladurée macaroon.
- There is the way you do things.  You don't drink tea before the meal because you feel like it.  You don't eat the salad before the starter.  You don't start eating if no one says "bon appetit."  You just don't, it's not how you do it.  And my friend Romaric will be embarrassed if you do.  (Which makes doing it ever the more delicious.)  It's a bit annoying.  But yet, it's endearing I find.  I like tradition, it sets things apart, it makes them special.

- French women.  They are beautiful, naturally beautiful.  They are always put together no matter the occasion and they make it look effortless.  It's classy, sophisticated, they don't show a lot of skin yet they still exude sexiness and femininity.   Take a lesson from the French (and/or Shifali or Sydney who both fall into this same category for me.)

- Paris has an unmatched personality.  It exudes culture.  It's bohemian yet refined, it's inspiring in its history and in its modernity both at the same time.  People express emotion in the street if they want - they kiss, hold hands, they even fight.  It's good, it's human, it gives the city a heart, especially when French people can be a bit standoffish at first.  It reminds you of how complex they -- we -- all are.

- I love how small Paris is.  It's big enough to stay anonymous, to discover new things around every corner, but small enough to never have to say no to any offer, because you know you're less than 30 minutes away.  This is one of the things I appreciate most in comparison to London.


These are some of the things that first captured me, that reawakened when some of my friends came to visit.  Shifali recently stayed the weekend with me.  She wanted to hear French music, and told me about the CD she distinctly remembers that marked the beginning of her Francophilia.  I began to play her some of my favorite songs and it drifted me back to days where I dreamed of being where I am right now.  And I realized it wasn't a dream anymore - how cool is that?


  1. Such a beautiful post, that I was mentally singing and dancing around the Eiffel Tower! I was of course singing my fav so frenchy, so chic song, avec le moi con compli... lol


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