I have become the stereotype of the single woman, and the sad thing is I didn’t even set out to find a feline companion. She hunted me down.
This is the cat who has moved in to my bedroom. She has so far covered my bedsheets in fur, possibly given me an eye infection (did I mention I’m allergic?), and made leaving the window open an invitation to nap on my pillow.
Sometimes she arrives at strange hours, like 2am, but there isn’t a day which goes by without me receiving at least one visit from my furry friend. I have been chosen, and it seems I have little say in the matter.
I call her Mon Ami.
I like to think of my having been adopted by a Parisian (albeit a four-legged one) as a metaphor for my being accepted by Paris as a whole.
This has come as a surprise, which brings me to the first expectation I had of this city before I moved here.
1. I thought the Parisians would be unfriendly.
Maybe it was the old British stereotype of the contrary Frenchman, or perhaps it had something to do with my expectations of city life compared to the quiet old village in which I grew up, but I didn’t come here expecting a warm welcome.
With my French still at the level of ‘où sont les toilettes?‘, I arrived in Paris with a suitcase, expecting to be jostled about on the metro, ridiculed for my excessive luggage, and generally looked down upon for my lack of French style.
None of these things happened. The Parisians are, in my experience so far, among the most chilled people in the world, and generous, with open arms.
2. I thought it would be easier to find love here.
Ah, French lovers and their reputation. Ah, naïve young women and their dreams. The sad truth is that men are men, and French men aren’t much different to their British counterparts. It’s just that some of them have more of a tan, and dress in better clothes.
Also, despite this city having a reputation for romance, nightclubbing is the same experience as it is the UK – most of the men there, regardless of their nationality, are only looking for one thing. Although it’s worth noting that the French either drink less, or handle it better.
3. I thought learning French would be easy.
Okay, so this was wishful thinking. Granted, French is easier than Russian, but it’s still bloody hard. I’ve been hovering on a 59% fluency estimate on Duolingo for ages, but I don’t think I’m even that good. Writing isn’t so bad, but spontaneous conversation is still enough to break me out in a sweat!
Give me another few months, maybe.
4. I thought I would be lonely.
One of the most profound things I have discovered during my time here so far is that there’s a world of difference between being alone and being lonely.
I think we are so often encouraged to find happiness through other people, but actually, being alone can be the greatest kind of freedom. Although I’ve made one or two friends here, I have also really learnt to love my own company.
5. I thought Paris would be a little warmer than England.
Underestimation of the century. I’m writing this after having taken a cold shower in the 37ºC heat which is threatening to consume me like a twig in flames. It’s so hot that wearing clothes is an issue, and every time I open the door I am greeted by the same waft of heat I get when I open the oven.
And finally, 6. I thought coming here would change me, for the better.
With this one, I was on the money. Coming to live in Paris has given me the opportunity to do so many new things, meet new people, and be the person I think I was always trying to be.
I feel, at last, I have become a ‘proper’ traveler, and even when I have bad days (childcare work provides plenty of challenges!) I never doubt that coming here was a good decision. Vive la liberté!