Has Paris Become More Aggressive?
Warning, this is a rant post! As much as I love Paris, sometimes, life here can drive me a little crazy… It isn’t all cherry blossomed Eiffel Tower views and coffee croissant dates you know…
So, here’s what happened : In an inhabitual manner I decided to head well outside of my neighborhood with my 3.5 month old baby and enjoy some time in the Marais. I used to go there frequently before becoming a parent and before living in the Batignolles. I had a lovely excuse to go, meeting an Instagram acquaintance in real life! After our cozy tea and wonderful chat I had time and wasn’t ready to head home. The baby was being an absolute angel so I went strolling with the stroller, window shopped and found a quiet café terrace for a late lunch. It was one of those days you dream about where you have leisure and no pressure from the clock. I felt free as a bird and the sun was shining, what could possibly come and ruin it all?!?
It was a cloud of smoke. Exhaled from a lady sitting two chairs away from me on my charming cafe terrace. I couldn’t escape it, it rushed right over to encircle my head. I waved at it with my napkin as if that might help. It didn’t. The cook of the café standing in the door saw me trying to avoid it. It was unavoidable. I immediately said something to the woman about how it was unpleasant to receive a face full of smoke from her and could she please send her smoke in the other direction. Well she she very quickly went on the defence. She claimed that she couldn’t smoke inside so therefore I should go inside since I didn’t want to be near cigarette smoke and the only place that she could smoke was on the terrace. She said that she would love to go inside and take off her coat and have more room but she can’t because she smokes.
I must say I really had a hard time feeling sorry for her…
…because well she chooses to smoke and it’s not something that she needs, nobody needs it it’s not a NEED ( I used to smoke, I should know). ON THE OTHER HAND, I DO NEED TO BREATHE AIR. And I told her that I chose not to smoke but I had every right to also sit on a cafe terrace and not have to breathe smoke. So could she please blow it in the other direction. She blamed the wind and the elements and claimed she was unable to do anything about it because again, there was wind. Most of the wind was coming out of her mouth mind you. Wind or no wind they’re still a polite way to treat others when you’re a smoker one of those is to make sure it’s not going in their face. And this is all I was asking. I should not have to give up sitting on a cafe terrace because some people feel it’s their prerogative to blow their smoke at anyone and everyone. It is their prerogative smoke outside but there is a problem when their cigarette smoke infringes upon on the air that other people are breathing. I don’t want to breathe in her cigarette smoke and I shouldn’t have to.
The cafe terraces should not be just for smokers and those of us who don’t smoke must be allowed to enjoy a cafe terrace without smoke. I wasn’t telling her not to smoke nor I wasn’t telling her that she had to leave the terrace I was simply telling her that it would be nice if she could blow her smoke or make sure her smoke goes in the other direction. But this concept was too difficult for her to comprehend.
She kept insisting that she didn’t have anywhere to smoke inside and she had to smoke on the terrace I told her she was more than welcome to go smoke at home. My insistence and logic must have annoyed her so much because she finally gave up and moved a few chairs down which was fine with me.
Do I sound like I’m complaining? Because I am.
But I’m writing this rant or this post because it goes beyond the cigarette smoke in Paris. There is a lack of consideration for others that is a rampant throughout the city and it has only become worse over the last handful of years. Ever since we’ve had regular and consistant disruption in this city these microaggressions, and not-so microaggressions, have become more and more apparent to me. Perhaps they existed before I became so highly sensitive to them to this degree but they’ve felt somewhat unbearable recently.
The people who push past you on public transportation, the people who leave their dog’s poop on the sidewalk for other people to step in, the people who leave their trash in the street, the people in their cars who honk for anything that is bothering them and therefore contributing to the auditory pollution that we live with in the city. And the people in their cars who ignore road laws and do not give you priority to cross a street as a pedestrian and completely disregard safety because there’s a attitude of “me first” running amok in this City.
The people who ride their motorcycle down the sidewalk because it’s more convenient for them. The people who shove and push in public transportation. Those who leave their trash on the street and can’t be bothered to take advantage of the free service to have it removed. The social fabric of Paris perhaps has never been one that is nurturing or neighbourly, but I sense that there is a drastic decline that has become worse ever since the strikes, the protests and now covid. All that good neighborlyness that came after the terrorist attacks is loooooong gone. And it saddens me immensely. It makes this beautiful city seem ugly, even more so than the constant construction does that the current mayor has going on rampantly. We have witnessed 3 fist fights IN THE STREET in broad daylight over traffic frustration just these pas 8 months!
It makes me want to run away from Paris. I wonder if this is why I frequent places like the Ritz more often these past few years, it seems that if you want to be treated with respect these days, it’s gonna cost you.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel it’s worse? Do you think I’m being dramatic? Do you feel it’s always been this way and I have just had on some rose colored glasses?!? Try to be kind and respectful in the comments… (Remember when blogs were a place where people were considerate shared their thoughts kindly….that too is an old school idea). Where has all the kindness gone?
I think you a absolutely right. I think that so much that used to be common knowledge and way of behavior, is no longer exists…
I agree with you so much so that, let me tell you many parisians simply decide to MOVE OUT of Paris.
so did I.. i simply left the country.
for me who lives in paris for 30+year
under Jacues Chirac multiple terms in office a a Mayor
Paris was exactly as you describe it in your early years of expat or from your dreams.
I’m a living memory of that Paris.!!
for the last 20 years it has gone just downhill.
there are a dozen of more pages on Facebook
exposing the disastrous effect of Anne Hidalgo policy…
Yes to enjoy Oaris now, one must select where to go.
So very sad