Parisians in Public
In Paris, they make an art out of pretending them are the only ones in the train. This can be difficult due to the crowd that occurs a couple times a day. There is no eye contact, and definitely no small smile. On the way home from Quartier Latin in Paris, I took an empty seat and quietly watched the people around me. I was born and raised a people watcher, and this is a bizarre and amusing dance. At home in Salt Lake City, Utah a small smile or acknowledgement between strangers is normal. For me the feeling of forced isolation is overwhelming in the crowded train. People sit and stand overlapping, their arms, legs and sides touching. Everywhere in the world you’ll find kind, wonderful people. Paris is no different, but the public Parisian culture is cold. However, people in Paris have no qualms with making-out or kissing in public. I haven’t seen anything extreme or inappropriate, but people are completely comfortable having an intimate moment on the trains/Metro in front of everyone. Keep in mind these are the same people they won’t say ‘hello’ to. When the RER or Metro is crowded it becomes a humorous action of avoiding acknowledging the people you are intertwined with. During the summer it isn’t clear whose sweat is whose. As a therapist I’ve come to feel that for the most part people should kiss and snuggle more, as long as one is aware of others’ feelings. Do you know what is always appropriate? Smiling, and acknowledgment. I have taken for granted that I live somewhere where when I smile at someone, they smile back. Paris is leaps and bounds ahead of Salt Lake in many ways, but it looked like in at least one way Paris could learn from my little Salt Lake City.
A couple embraces, bumping against my leg. A woman is wedged unable to shift herself from facing both us and them. Her face has forced in-expression. Her determination to ignore everyone looks exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to be alone.