When in Paris

(Graphic by Kate Turner)
(Graphic by Kate Turner)

Paris is fast-paced and relaxed. It is frustrating and it is friendly. Above all else, when considering Waterloo, Toronto, or any city we call home, Paris is different.   A week into a four-month stint in the city of lights, I have begun to notice major variances in everyday normalcy that you have likely never given a second thought to in Canada.

Milk, as far as Canadians are concerned, belongs in the fridge. When left out, the consumption of milk becomes questionable. With the fear you’ll find lumps in your cereal, it  seems like common sense that milk is kept cold. So you can understand my apprehension when I rounded the corner of my local ‘Carrefour’ and found open-air shelves full of plastic bottles of milk.  I learned that the French prefer ‘UHT’ milk, which has a long shelf life and does not need to be refrigerated. While I understand the difference between this milk and the ‘fresh’ milk that we enjoy at home, it might be a while before I enjoy a bowl of cereal  — at least I have my croissants!

The streets, parks, train stations and restaurants are clouded with smoke from morning to night, despite the Parisian law passed that banned smoking in public places. A three-hour lecture at my university includes a break, at which point 90 per cent of my classmates head outside for a communal smoke break. Perhaps I’ve taken the virtually smoke-free environment in Canada for granted.

Upon arrival, I was instructed to take public transport to my apartment. This journey included three transfers, two suitcases, a backpack and a hundred flight of stairs. What could have been a thirty-minute drive turned into a two-hour trek and made me realize that Paris is not a city built with accessibility. Paris seems entirely inaccessible to anyone with a serious disability or difficulty walking. This has made me appreciate the effort Canada has put into making an accessible country.
The differences between Canada and France seem endless and I am prepared to understand this city. I appreciate this eclectic and enticing place for everything it has to offer. I’m beginning to appreciate things about home that I never gave much thought to.
As a Canadian in Paris, I am indulging in the cheese, wine, and bread. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not longing for a fresh morning cup of Tim Horton’s coffee.

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