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.