I was at a ‘Meet Up’ earlier last week, drinks and bruschetta at the Tete du Brulee. I think in an earlier post I was whinging about having to be pleasant at these events, but really, without them, my night life would consist of letting out the neighbours cat for a pee, so I heartily endorse them.

However this ‘Meet Up’ was notable in that I was chatting to actual French people. Usually these things are heavily expat dominated which is either a plus or minus depending on how wearied one is feeling that evening. Anyway this one chap I was talking to had spent a few years in London and had all but expunged his French accent when speaking English. Now why would anyone do that? French accented English is flirting currency and this guy was already poverty stricken on the charm front.

Firstly he antagonised me by asking was I ‘scared’ to be living in Bagnolet, then giggled (yes giggled) as my crappy attempts at speaking French. Apparently he was fluent in English after only three months. He then proceeded to lecture me at length about how Paris was full of social codes which, if I had any chance of survival at all, I needed to learn asap. For example the manner in which they kiss each other on the cheeks apparently speaks volumes. I wonder if my cringing and ducking as he leant in to kiss me good bye translated.

Admittedly I think 90% of my touchiness was due to the fact that I was rather enjoying NOT knowing the social codes in France. The more I travel the more I realise how many of the notions and opinions that we take to be ‘fact’ or ‘the way things’ are, are simply products of where we happen to be or what stage of life we are at and that once in a while it can be liberating to say ‘screw ‘em’.

While on paper I am living a very free and open lifestyle, in my head, my neurotic, angst groping head, I am a very conventional product of an Irish upbringing so when ever I visit my home town, I usually end up in a panic that I haven’t a salaried job, settled down, started a family or bought a house, as have most of my friends. I don’t even know that I want any of the above, all I know is that I get an enormous attack of ‘the shoulds’ when I compare my life to those of my friends.

Here I don’t know the codes and I like that. Briefly I was enjoying telling myself that in Paris, being a thirty-something broke, homeless struggling writer was in fact terribly chic and aspirational. But maybe instead I should tell myself to cop on instead, to stop angsting about what other people are doing and focus on the fact that being here, in Paris, working at something which, though precarious, I love, is a bloody fantastic and privileged opportunity. In fact the only thing I ‘should’ do, is shut up , go out and enjoy it.

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