Whether a tourist or a local, scratching the surface of Paris to dig for deeper magic is well worth it.
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Paris is a place filled with myriad cultures, religions, languages and nationalities. We tend to view France through the quintessentially French perspective of “chateaux, champagne et croissants”, but there is so much more to discover with just a little scratch of the surface.
I spoke recently to Pakistani woman Fiza about her move with her family from Pakistan to Paris. She has family already living there which prompted France to be the country of choice for their emigration, but initially even with family support she found it difficult having no French when she arrived. Fiza moved to France as a young adult a few years ago and not long after, COVID hit and the country went into lockdown. Fiza then taught herself French through YouTube and watching French movies or television whilst she had to stay at home. She also listens to French music, including some old favourites of mine to assist her fluency. Fiza has improved so much so now that she can even pick up different accents when hearing native French speakers. She’s not sure when that kicked in for her but one day she just noticed she could tell the difference. I can’t imagine I will ever get to that stage, but I’ll keep trying!
Fiza has found a huge difference in her Parisian life from when she was in Pakistan. She now has the freedom to leave the house on her own whereas before she must have had friends or family such as her brothers to accompany her out. She said the public transport in Paris makes it easier to get around as well. The way Fiza describes her French world is so different from many other people living in Paris I have spoken to. There is a significant difference in the worlds inside and outside the périphérique, as there is also between the “leafier” arrondissements to the more working class areas. As foreigners we often don’t connect with any part of Paris beyond the tourist sites. It is also a different experience when living in the city and not just passing through. Having days off that are not connected means some locals in Paris can’t just take off for a weekend to explore the regional areas of France. As tourists we are sometimes in a unique position to have the funds and the time, giving us more freedom to explore what and how we wish. When living there with the requirements of work and responsibilities of a resident, the experience will be fundamentally changed.
I asked Fiza about her experience in Paris of connecting with various religions and the festivities that are observed. It seems her view of this from living within the melting pot differs from what I see in the news and read as an outsider here in Australia. It was fascinating to hear about her perspective of her world. One thing I understood loud and clear from Fiza, is that we should never take our freedom for granted.
I was inspired by Fiza to try and view a different Paris on occasion in the future. Fiza talked about doing a segway tour which sounded like a brilliant way to see the city, as well as just roaming around new arrondissements to explore new areas. I will try to visit and explore a new arrondissement every time I visit! She also mentioned that her dream had always been to have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. She has now got to turn this dream into a reality.
Lous and The Yakuza – Je Ne Sais Pas