Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Winter in Paris, life in Paris

If Paris is a city devoted to pleasure, then there’s is no use being miserable, right? I turned my heat on this past weekend. I am denying on the onset of winter. At least, trying to. But it’s not easy when my alarm rings out at 7:30 and it’s still pitch-black outside. I don’t think there’s anything worse than waking up to a cold, dark bedroom.

Coincidentally, I am still reading Lucy Wadham’s The Secret Life of France and, after a year and a half here—much of it which has felt like winter—some things are beginning to make sense.

The French are the biggest consumers of psychotropic drugs in the world, Lucy reports. Contrary to popular belief, they far outstrip the Americans. Recent research by scientists from Bordeaux found that almost a quarter of all French, more than 15 million people, admitted to having taken either anti-depressants or tranquillisers in the past year — five times as many as in Britain and a third more than in America…

… The widespread use of these drugs does not alter the fact that France has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe. According to OECD figures, approximately seventeen out of every hundred thousand French people take their own lives each year, compared to seven Britons. You might ask why – in a society where the quality of life seems to be superior, where fertility and life expectancy and literacy are higher, where the crime rate is lower and teenage pregnancies fewer – so many people want to kill themselves.

She goes on to (modestly and cautiously) propose some theories: All the values that form the bedrock of France’s collective unconscious – the Cult of Beauty, the Tragic (rather than the Comic) world view, the Cult of Reason – leave French people particularly ill-equipped for the harsher aspects of reality.

On a lighter note, I will add the climate. The cloying, tenacious grey. The chill that sits in your bones and refuses to leave.

As easy as it is to be in love with Paris, and 17 years after first being bitten, I am still very much in love, it is hard to live here.

Easy to fall in love with the place. But living in Paris is hard.


  1. I can relate... in various ways that are different but much the same.
    We have not had a break, we have not left, for even a weekend. That is what people tell me we should do , but various reasons keep us here for now. So while I have no answer for how to feel better about some things, at least I can be sympathetic and when you say these things, I "get it" :)

  2. Living in a grey climate is hard wherever it is...I always think London is much the same. I try to make myself do things regardless of the weather...I fight against it and sometimes I win, sometimes I don't. xv

  3. "Easy to fall in love with the place. But living in Paris is hard." If I lived there I suspect I would think the same thing. But Vicki is right about living in a gray climate cause SoCal has not seen sun in about a week and it is KILLING me!

  4. It's all about people wanting to live it up to the preconceived ''standard''.
    I, on the other hand LOOOVE gloomy, rainy, even cold days. They exude coziness and it's when the ''hygge'' as they say in Denmark happens upon you. AAh... Amy, keep your spirits up!

  5. AT- if it makes you feel any better, i've had my heat on for about 3 wks in Boston....:(

  6. In addition, according to 2007 statistics from a research group, over 27 percent of adults in France report having sleeping problems and there are 4.3 million users of sleeping pills in the country. But then life can be hard anywhere... Paris is wonderful to visit, but to live there, one should be rich or be a diplomat, in other words have other people help you with everyday hassles.

  7. Merci, mes amis. I didn't do so well with winter last year. And that it arrived an extra month early, well, gosh it's like Christmas coming early. Thanks for your commiseration and support! xo

  8. oh god!!! i'm living in paris too, and i completly understand you.... sometimes its really depressing, and the parisians are far from nice...Paris had that kind of magic, when you visit the city you think that its the perfect city, but living... living its way too different...
    my voisin hates me because im from latinamerica and i have accent when i talk in french... so, yes, yesterday i bought 200 gr of haribo gummys, because i was grey, just like the day...

  9. So true. I constantly ask myself how I can love a place so much that puts me through so much...Paris is kind of like the bad beautiful, makes you feel good, and just when you think he likes you back...something happens that throws you back into reality. J'adore Paris. Even though you can be unbelievably cold.