Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Les Arrondissements

Paris is divided into 20 "arrondissements", meaning neighborhoods. Shaped like an escargot, the 1st arrondissement starts in the heart of the city, and goes around clockwise. In general, the central and western arrondissements are considered to be more chic and bourgeois, ie. more expensive to live in. My mother-in-law's husband recently explained why this is so to me. It is all because of the wind! The wind apparently blows from west to east, and all the pollution ends up on the eastern side. So logically, back in the day, the poor people ended up with the eastern neighborhoods and the richer in the west. And that has mainly stayed until today.
However, there are many pockets of nice areas in each of the eastern arrondissements that have risen over the years. Bobos have picked the 3rd, 11th, 19th and 20th arrondissements as "cool" spots to live in.

Excusez-moi, parlez vous anglais?

Most foreigners start with this phrase. "Do you speak English?" Often, they are shocked by the quick response of "non!". Well, if they didn't speak English, they wouldn't know how to answer the question correct? The first rule of the trade here in the City of Lights is to try your best to speak French, even though speaking French to you means repeating phrases out of a guidebook. The French people like seeing this, foreigners struggling so hard to speak their language, and you'd be surprise to hear them *finally* making an effort to speak English!

Not everyone is as anti-English speaking as I make them seem to be. There is a growing number of Bobos (short for Bourgeois Bohemian) who are young international Parisians with open ideas of mixed marriages and very influenced by American ideals. Many salespeople in department stores and luxury stores are also more than happy to practice their English with you.