There’s something in the air here tonight. Those of you who know me well know that I come to France a lot, specifically to Paris. And tonight I saw something unusual, something I’ve never seen in this city. People say that the British, the English have a “stiff upper lip”, that they are staid, never smiling. This is even more true of Parisians. See one on the street, try to make eye contact, they look away. If a glance lingers, try smiling. They will avert their eyes even faster. If you only know Paris, Parisians, from encounters on the street then you’d think that they are a miserable, truly unhappy people. The reality is that they save their happiness, their openness, for when they are apart from the world, with friends, with family. Happiness is not something a Parisian shares and shows to strangers.
But tonight life here is weird, at least for me as an American, an outsider. Tonight, actually, all of today, it’s snowing in Paris. This is not a normal thing. It’s accumulating a little. For a Bostonian, a native New Englander, we’d call it a “dusting”. Our concern would be about some dumbass messing up our morning commute. But here in Paris it’s an event. And what am I seeing? Parisians in the street laughing with their friends. Smiling. Having fun. Throwing snowballs. Taking pictures of the snow, themselves, and more. And yeah, this is a city with a lot of tourists. But the people laughing, having fun? They are speaking French. It’s a part of the city I’ve never seen. Perhaps I never will again.