I’m currently living in France, ostensibly to learn the language but largely to ensure that I don’t fall into the habit of becoming too entrenched in my Australian habits and can maintain the illusion of being cultured and worldly. After all, if all Australians thought my accent sounded Australian when I am, after all, Australian, how would I live with myself?
After just 3 months, it’s hard to judge how much I’ve changed. I have learned, for instance, not to question the young man with his two freshly-purchased baguettes strapped perpendicularly to the parcel rack of his bike like some delicious, gluten-heavy stabiliser. In fact; I commiserate with him. Baguettes are delicious but terribly impractical for shoving into your hold-all handbag, and so I always glance at the mothers pushing prams with half a metre of bread sticking out of them with a sense of quiet fellowship.
But I still can’t help but wonder at the well-dressed woman on a bicycle stopping at the red light with her 3 inch shiny black heels just barely touching the ground. Her attire is perfect corporate-elegance, and I’m sure her makeup is impeccable. The neon yellow high-vis vest is the only thing that looks out of place, but I’m glad to think she’s not sacrificing her safety to the ever-greedy fashion gods.
Every so often, I start to feel the dark tendrils of guilt creeping across my soul as I stroll idly about the city, doing little more productive than Snapchatting museum displays and reading Elizabeth von Arnim books at the train station. A few glimpses of what I would like to assume are the true Parisians, though, have reassured me. My favourite instance might be that of the two men I’d call middle-aged to their face but describe as old to my friends, sitting on a bench outside the Pere Lachaise cemetery and drinking a bottle of red wine from disposable plastic tumblers at 11 in the morning. They helped remind that whenever I’m focusing simply on dissolutely enjoying myself, I am, in fact, getting perfectly into the spirit of Paris.