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.
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?