Paris, for Now… {guest post by Expat Edna}

5 September 2012

Retain your gasps, it’s true. Paris’s vaunted magic and charm doesn’t seduce everyone and when I met Edna Zhou, a 23 year old expat from Pennsylvania who has traveled extensively in Asia, just after she arrived earlier this year, I sensed the city would need to pull out all the stops to win her favor. She’s made a concerted effort to appreciate her surroundings but her relationship with Paris isn’t a grand love affair. Whereas I can envision my life in Paris forty years from now, she’s eager for the next adventure. Here, she explains why. 

I’ve never been a Francophile. I’ve never dreamed of long walks through Paris’s cobblestoned streets, or whiling away the afternoon at a café in Montmartre…or whatever else it is people dream about when they think about Paris.
So when I received a job offer in the city and moved here eight months ago, I might not have been jumping up and down for joy. But I was open to loving Paris.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened.
Most people I tell find the sentiment hard to believe. And just like you can’t explain love, I have a hard time explaining why I don’t love Paris. I like it well enough and appreciate its abundance of art, culture, and history. I can also appreciate why other people love it, fantasize about it, and travel thousands of miles to visit.
I tried to force the adoration. I came up with lists of reasons why I love living here, from being able to walk past the Eiffel Tower every day, to the access to top-quality cheese and fresh baguettes. But those aren’t that important to me. I could very easily go without cheese and bread for the rest of my life and the Eiffel Tower loses its luster when you walk past it twice a day, every day.
And that’s when the guilt sets in. (Trust me, I do hear myself when I say these things!) How dare I get tired of the Eiffel Tower? How dare I not like cheese when some of the world’s best fromage is at my fingertips for just a few euros per kilo? Life is good here, and I know it, so why can’t I just be quiet and appreciate it?
I liken it to being set up on a date with a really great guy, and just not having that spark. That date could be a super human, who seems perfect on paper and whose virtues are raved about the world over – hell, he could be Bradley Cooper, but in the end if the love isn’t there, you can’t force it. And as disappointing as that may be, that’s life — and that’s my relationship with Paris.
To be clear, it’s not the people. Despite the stereotypes I had heard and continue to hear, I find the French no ruder than people in any other country I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve received numerous random acts of kindness from French strangers here in Paris.

If I had to pinpoint the reasons, I’d say Paris doesn’t impress me. The city is romantic, without a doubt, but it’s not my type of romance. The architecture is too ornate for my taste, the fashion too sensible, the city too small. I feel like the city is an uptight headmistress, and I have to constantly be on my best behavior.
There is nothing about Paris that draws me in and refuses to let me go. While I enjoy picnics along the Seine or walks through the Marais, when I eventually leave this city those experiences aren’t especially powerful enough to make me want to come rushing back.
So I’m still on the fence about this city. About six months in, I had myself convinced that I did, in fact, love Paris. But shortly after, I went on a trip to London and as soon as I stepped foot on English soil, I remembered what it was like to immediately, instinctively, inexplicably like a city. It made me realize what I felt for Paris wasn’t real.
However, I am wholly grateful to Paris for providing me with the opportunity to meet a wonderful group of friends. Most are expats, a few are French, but they are all people I will be continue to be friends with long after I leave, and the main reason why I’m still trying to make this relationship with Paris work. 
Recently I was offered a contract extension which will see me staying at least another six months. I think I’m going to take it. I may not be in love with Paris, but I’m more than happy for us to be friends.
{Edna’s favorite spots in Paris}
La Moulin de la Vierge, 166 Avenue de Suffren, 75015 — the best café eclair I’ve found in Paris

Le Nemrod, 51 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 — recommended for the Croque Poilane, the best croque madame in the city
Kooka Boora, 62 Rue des Martyrs, 75009 — a cozy corner cafe in Montmartre serving proper lattes and delicious carrot cake
Verjus, 52 Rue de Richelieu, 75001 — restaurant run by the Americans behind Hidden Kitchen; also have a great wine bar on the ground floor
Cyclo, 78 Rue de Belleville, 75020 — Vietnamese place in Belleville; where I go when I need to satisfy a pho or bo bun craving
Follow Edna’s itinerant adventures on her blog Expat Edna and connect with her on Twitter: @Ednacz.
What place have you been told you’d love and, despite your greatest efforts, just couldn’t?