Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New York & Paris

I came across this interesting blog posting by a Parisian living in New York. He has good insights as to how these two great cities compare when it comes to living in them as a foreigner.

For the most part, I nodded my head in agreement. Oui, oui, it’s frustrating in Paris when the wrong pronunciation of one word sabotages your whole attempt to convey a want or need.

And it’s true, New York’s grid is easier to navigate. Lord knows I’ve been tripped up by the crooked boulevards and one-way streets of Paris.

But as I continued reading, I was suddenly disagreeing. “New York is easy for foreigners as they are not expected to speak the local language.” Huh? I never heard a waitress or store clerk busting out the Chinese or French to a sad sack who couldn’t speak English. And he goes on: “Anywhere in the city, you are not really expected to master the local language: the shopkeepers will adapt to the foreigner’s way. This is unheard of in Paris.”

It’s just so funny because since I’ve been here, I’ve been amazed at how accommodating everyone is when it comes to speaking English. It definitely wasn’t this way when I was a student here. But now the Parisians not only switch to English, they do it with a smile. Not only do most Parisians speak English, but they’re much warmer and welcoming than their reputation would have you believe. The girls noticed it this weekend, too.

But I guess in the end, everyone’s perceptions are valid. We each have our own experiences that form them. This guy loves New York’s opportunity for all, delivery services and taxi overload. But when it comes to the city’s energy and the people who create that energy, he says: “Some do overshoot: in the drive to become the ultimate New Yorker, many overdress to overkill, get high, become pathologically hyperactive, play a role and make the city somewhat unbearable.”

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