The most popular book about screenwriting is called Save the Cat. The title refers to the theory that in order to get a movie audience to care about the main character, and thus the movie, you have the main character do something “nice.” In other words, you have them “save a cat.” Unfortunately, this is a misunderstanding of how audience empathy actually works; audiences are much more likely to empathize with a character when they see them messing up or being down on their luck, because it makes them feel more relatable. With that being said, here are my top three blunders from my first weeks in Paris, in what is certainly not a desperate attempt to get you, dear reader, to empathize me more.
Posts from the ‘France’ Category
I’ve been in France for almost two months now, so I’m starting to get used to “le rhythme Français,” but there are some definite differences that have taken getting used to. So here are, in no particular order, 10 of the major cultural differences between France and the U.S.
The word has been looming over me like a storm cloud, a sheer cliff, or any other doom-infused image you can think of.
I had planned to under pack for this trip. I had hoped to travel light and be worry free as I began this once in a lifetime adventure to Paris. Initially this was a simple enough goal. I compiled every black, white, and beige piece of clothing in my closet, the essential toiletries, a few converters, and I was set. I was calm, cool, and collected right up until the night before my scheduled departure.
I think it’s only fitting that I begin this post with both an apology and a justification. For the former: In my nearly four months in THE city of artistic and literary inspiration I have written a grand total of…one blog post. There’s really no good excuse for this (except I’m running on Parisian time?), so instead of mounting a lengthy defense, I’ll use this space to reflect on why and how exactly time gets away from you while abroad and offer some perspective on how to keep up with it as we head into the next semester…
1. After about a week abroad, you will swear that you’ve entered a time-space continuum.
I’m positive it’s some French voodoo, but as I’m entering my fourth month in Paris, I feel both as if I left home just yesterday and that I’ve been here my whole life. It’s illogical and borders on the cliché, but each day here is so full and different that you lose a sense of cohesiveness. You’ll find yourself having internal arguments about which Friday afternoon it was that you got caught between the closing metro doors or when, exactly, you almost perfectly ordered your plat from that fancy restaurant. And by contrast, there will be several moments where you have to ask yourself: what did I even do with myself this week? And it’s only when you do a mental rundown that you realize you made it to all your classes on time, in addition to hauling your lazy-self to the Uexpress across the street, AS WELL AS taking the wrong metro line only ONCE…you go you big city-slicker, you.
Some days it feels like February 9th will never get here. Then other days I think for a few moments that I could use an additional day or two to get ready. I don’t need an extra day to get ready. Not by a long shot. Other than packing (And who packs for a trip three weeks in advance?), I don’t have anything major left to do. Packing is hardly interesting to me anyway, and most of the advice I’ve gotten about packing is to take as little as possible, which is sort of my MO.
So why do I sometimes feel like I could use more time before leaving? I guess that’s just nerves from something that I’ve been looking forward to for so long now being within reach. There are times when it gets a little overwhelming, or times when I can’t believe I’m actually going. But then I check my flight itinerary and it hits me again that this is real.
With the time I’ve got before I leave for France, I’ve been spending most of it brushing up on my language skills, while trying to get myself mentally prepared. Sometimes those two counter-act one another. I’ll try reading a newspaper article in Le Monde and think “Oh man, I don’t know nearly enough. I’m gonna be lost over there.”
Preparing to live in a city that remains—for so many people, spanning so many periods—a paradigm of glamour, culture, exploration, and belonging is, most days, incredibly daunting. There’s just something about Paris: a world capital that was both a haven for the intellectual bohemian set of the 1920s and a beacon of couture, the city somehow seems to revel in dichotomies, while transcending them. Like most good (read: cliché) wanna-be ex-pats, I’ve spent many hours devouring the literature, films, philosophy, and language of the French. Yet, try as I might, I will never be able to fully remove my Americanness in favor of a haute couture French identity, even after spending two semesters en France. And I don’t want to! So, right now, I’m still sitting at home in pre-departure limbo, counting down the days until I leave (10.5!), while all of my friends are back at school, already preparing for midterms. In the meantime, I’m turning to the words and wisdom of fellow expatriates as a sort-of cheat sheet on how to reconcile my love for “home” and my eagerness to arrive in the city of lights and love.
Although I’ve made it back to the States, I’m still thinking about Paris (and how much I miss it already). As I’m just now starting to unpack my bags, I keep finding bits of bric-a-brac and other small keepsakes of my time abroad. So, as hindsight is twenty-twenty, I’ve composed a list of places that my friends and I have loved and frequented.
I had that chance to speak with with my Cinema professor, Irène Savarit-Ghebreyal, and ask her about Paris. Irène was born in NYC to French parents and moved back to Paris at a young age. She has now been living in Paris for 40 years. Living in the 9th arrondissement, she is now married to an Egyptian man, her life consisting of 3 different cultures. I asked for her opinions on Paris and France. Here are her responses to my questions, which I’ve translated from French.