LD: Day 2

Rebecca Cao DiplomatThis post is part of Le Diplomate series, in which I will chronicle my travel joys and tribulations as an intern for the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. OECD in Paris.

Well, I hadn’t planned on blogging every day, but now that I have so much time on my hands, I might as well! I just came back from a lovely stroll around my neighborhood with my best friend, a 35-mm Minolta camera. Although I had wanted to take candids of the intriguing Parisians on the streets, this proved particularly difficult without a digital camera. My thought process: oh hey, what a great outfit! Picture, picture, picture. Focus lens. Shoot, need to adjust exposure. Ah, now aperture. Wait, where’d she go?! Aw, man.

At one point, I stationed myself outside the Victor Hugo Metro stop, where I’d seen tons of people emerge last night. As soon as I positioned myself, though, everybody disappeared! Just my luck. Eventually, I wandered back to my apartment on Rue de Longchamp and managed to get a good shot of an elderly woman moving slowly enough for me to catch her.

The view from the Victor Hugo metro stop.

I made several observations during my trek. Firstly, Parisian fashion isn’t incredibly outrageous or anything. It’s not like everyone’s wearing stilettos and red lipstick 24/7. People just make more of an effort to be presentable. The women are huge fans of blazers and the men can actually pull off scarves. One major difference I noticed is that Parisians dress to show off their clothes, not their bodies. On a sunny day like this, everyone in Ann Arbor would be pulling out their shorts and low-cut tank tops, but in Paris most people are in long shirts and pants.

Secondly, I noticed a particular dynamic that’s very different from what I’m used to. Though the 20th century did much for American women, I still feel that the U.S. is quite a patriarchal society. In France, however, the men tend to disappear into the background while the women are in the spotlight. When I was in Spain, I saw many more attractive men than I see here. I don’t think this is because Spaniards are hotter than Frenchmen; it’s because Frenchmen aren’t as visible. Thirdly, the empowered Parisian woman’s strength also extends to her family. On one hand, the average American mother has little control over her average American teen daughter. On the other hand, the well-dressed, confident, and savvy French mother is way cooler than her awkward teen daughter, who has much to learn from her maman. Whereas youth and immaturity are glamorized in America, age and wisdom are revered in France.

Now, it is time the women’s final of the French Open! Yesterday, while I was watching the Nadal/Ferrer match, it started to pour outside and then I was surprised to see that there was a rain delay on TV too. The fact that I am a mere walk from Roland-Garros is still blowing my mind.

What are some cultural differences you’ve come across in your travels? Did those lead you to appreciate or criticize your own culture?

À bientôt,

R

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5 thoughts on “LD: Day 2

  1. I was born in the Philippines, and lived there til I was 7, and not to mention, I live in a household that somehow still clings to some Filipino values. One thing…. education is highly valued. College education is a given, and Filipino parents will do anything for thier children’s education.
    Filipino families too are highly extended. I had a cousin from the Philippines who came here to the US to study, lived with us for 4 years. This will never happen to an American family.

    And food at Filipino parties are awesome….. 2 dozen dishes, and later we give the food to guests to take home. American families just have hotdogs, cakes, and maybe sandwiches.

    • I think most Asian cultures are extremely education-centered. Most of us first generation Americans had parents who worked much harder than we do.

      In small-town America, I think that family is still very connected. However, in the 21st century, America is really losing family values. With the current divorce rates and people moving far away to work, more and more families are broken up.

      Haha I must say that my least favorite type of food is American. I don’t even know what “American food” is…but it’s generally heart-attack food. Shudder.

  2. I guess that for now, you are enjoying the tennis match between Nadal and Djokovic… but when you’ll be up to shoot photographs again, you’ll be able to find plenty of places in Paris from where you can remain unseen but watch people passing by! Many bridges are good spots for example..

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