Two weekends ago, I went on a trip to Paris for four days; needless to say, Paris could not be any less similar to Dublin.
I was extremely impressed with the aesthetic development of the city; I have always heard about how Paris’ first priority was maintenance of its beauty, but I couldn’t really understand what that meant until I saw it. Lights were everywhere I looked; it seemed as if Paris celebrated the holidays throughout the year, with the Eiffel Tower flashing like a Christmas tree every hour on the hour. The Champs-Elysee, a street widely known for its commerce, amazed me as I toured through the Mercedes-Benz shop and other stores that I couldn’t even think of buying products from. On each end of the street were famous, obviously brightly-lit monuments; on the far end was the famous Arc de Triomphe, and on the starting end was the Luxor Obelisk overshadowed by a giant Ferris wheel. Such a condensed set of lights overwhelmed me with aesthetic culture, especially since I came from the relatively humble city of Dublin. Due to this juxtaposition in aesthetic culture, I presumed that there would be a stark contrast between the Parisian culture and the Dublin culture. Unfortunately, I was right.
While the first French local I met, a taxi driver, was extremely nice and friendly during my travels with him, he unfortunately did not represent the greater Parisian community. This observation may sound corny and cliché, but the majority of the Parisian locals I tried talking to were disgustingly rude to me; I tried speaking conversational French with them, but I feel like that just inflicted more pain into their collective, ethnocentric heart. I was literally discouraged to speak their language as they made sure to polarize me as an outsider that just could not understand how they lived. This contrasts completely with the Irish community in Dublin; rather than fists, I got mostly open arms from the Irish locals. I felt almost immediately at home once I toured the more populated areas of the city, getting helpful directions and witty jokes on the side. Overall, the social contrast between the Dublin and Parisian community was polarized to an extreme. No wonder why the French stereotype is so nasty to Americans.
From the way they dressed, to the way they walked, to the way they spoke, mostly everything about a Parisian juxtaposes with the style of an Irishman; the only aspects of the Parisian culture that I saw which positively compared to the Irish culture was their playful, or not so playful, disdain toward the British culture, and its relatively high amount of nationalism for a country. The Irish culture is very nationalistic due to the historical pressure given unto them by the British government; likewise, the Parisian culture embraces the French flag and makes sure to put it on everything. From French crepes to the not-so-french fries, everything that was made in France for consumption was made sure to brag about the fact. Indicating a sense of ethnic superiority, the Parisians embrace their own culture as the dominant culture of their area, and reinforce it by praising themselves and scolding outsiders. The Irish are almost as ethnocentric in terms of pride, but they are starkly different in their expression of it. Possibly due to the forced introversion of the Irish culture by the British government earlier in history, Irish pride is less consistently expressed and only shown on occasion; on most occasions, however, the general Irish population remains relatively humble when compared to the culturally extroverted Parisian population.
Overall, I do not regret this trip to Paris, as it would never have opened my eyes fully toward the Parisian lifestyle and, more uncommonly, the Irish lifestyle in Dublin. By cementing this social spectrum in my mind, putting Dublin and Paris on each end, I looked at each community with a set of brand new eyes. The people of Dublin looked even more nice and friendly when I got back, making the city feel more like my true home away from home.
– John Miranda