Expat Comparisons

One thing you do constantly as an expat is make comparisons…

…to home, to other cities, to anything really, constantly finding touch points along the way.

The London weather is a constant source of comparison, usually for the worse versus ANYWHERE else.  Except maybe Paris.

I recently returned to the French Open with some girlfriends.  When you conjure an image of a tennis match, you envision players in shorts and fans in Tshirts.  Not so at the French Open last Friday.  Unusually cold weather kept the crowd bundled in hats, scarves, and down jackets, attire more fitting for an American football game in November.  This year we are tolerating the coldest Spring in 50 years compared to last year when we endured the wettest Spring in 100 years.  I’m not sure which comparison is worse.

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Back in Greenwich and New York, Katie and her buddies were also have a Girls’ Day Out at a sporting event, the quintessentially American baseball at Yankee Stadium.  Compared to Europe, the U.S. is much more in sync with the seasons and seems to experience Spring as it should be, warm and sunny!  Notice the shorts and Tshirts the girls are wearing to a night game when temperatures are always a bit cooler than mid-day.

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The gentile French Open is more civilized compared to the bratty US Open.  Where else would one exit the gift shop and be entertained by a snappily-dressed lively band or enter the pedestrian food court to sip champagne, eat oysters, and enjoy macaroons?  None of this is VIP treatment; c’est la vie within Roland Garros.

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There was truly no comparison between the ever-composed Federer and temperamental Frenchman he met on center court.  The Frenchman gave it his best shot but came up short against the pure poetry that is Federer’s fluid one-handed backhand.

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With frozen toes, numb fingers, and shivering bodies, my friends and I made our way back to Paris.  There we met up with Melissa, our new pal from the Ashram.  We looked quite a bit better compared to the last time we had all been together, either clad in yoga clothes or drenched in sweat on the trails.  We indulged in many un-Ashram delights with copious cocktails and wine flowing and delicious desserts rounding out a fun meal.

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By comparison, Paris is much like New York City.  The cabs are uncomfortable, and the drivers are rude.  The Metro is dirty and grimy and sometimes filled with unsavory characters.  Homeless people camp out on the streets and dog poo creates mini-minefields on the sidewalks.  People are argumentative and passionate.  Melissa explained that you have to adopt a combative attitude to be taken seriously in Paris, just as in New York.  She noted not one but three mistakes on our bill in a blatant attempt to pad on extras to the oblivious Americans.  She urged us to always check the bill in Paris because every time there is a discrepancy.  I loved watching Melissa argue in French, incensed she exclaimed:  Toujours la même chose!!

Paris may have no comparison when it comes to the joys of aimless city wandering.  My friends and I awoke Saturday with no set plans.  We hopped in a cab en route to one place but never got there.  Instead, we pulled over to wander through a charming flea market in the Marais district that we just happened to see out the window.  From there, we walked a long distance to the outskirts of the city to explore the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, the resting place of Jim Morrison among others.  We strolled up and down rolling hills within the maze of winding paths lined by elaborate sepulchers and tombs and shaded by leafy trees. Last, we crossed over to the Left Bank and ambled along St. Germaine’s little side streets filled with interesting boutiques.

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By comparison to life at home where we are more isolated stateside, life in London makes these excursions within Europe accessible and easy.

When it comes to finding adventure, the expat experience is beyond comparison.


 

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