When I first arrived in New York City, I was what you might call bright eyed and bushy tailed. I had never lived here before, and was brimming with excitement as I thought about the endless possibilities a summer in the Big Apple held. I even blogged about my first impressions of the city, and they were mostly positive. The people are so nice! We're free to be you and me! But one month later, after you've seen a pack of rats in the subway, found a roach in your shower, trampled through garbage lined streets that no one ever seems to clean up, and spent night after night in an urban apartment sans air conditioning during a brutal summer heat wave, your bright eyes start to dim. The honeymoon is over.
I'm still glad to be here, and I know there are many good things to come this summer (and many good things that have already happened), but I now have a more realistic outlook on life in NYC. In short, it's hard. And often uncomfortable. All of this musing on the city got me thinking about my first impressions of Paris. Unlike New York, my first impressions of Paris were mostly negative. The city felt overwhelming, and I didn't think it lived up to the hype. I used to go so far as to claim that I hated Paris. Why would anyone spend time in that gloomy city when they could hang out on the sunny beaches of the South of France?
Unlike New York City, my honeymoon with Paris came after the first impressions. And it has yet to end. I visited Paris once more before moving there in February of 2008 and I didn't hate it! I wandered the streets with my camera, spent time gazing in amazement at the Eiffel Tower, and downed sweet crêpes purchased from sidewalk vendors. Paris was growing on me. My appreciation for the city only continued to grow during the six months I lived there. Even today, far away from France, I dream about Paris and all of its delights - from impromptu baguette and cheese picnics, to discovering a new favorite café, to never tiring of the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
And it kind of makes sense that New York would immediately suck you and later spit you out, while your relationship with Paris grows stronger over time. That's often how people describe friendships in the U.S. and France. Americans make friends quickly, even immediately. Someone you just met at a neighborhood get-together will soon know you entire life story, and you will know his or hers, and a new friendship (or, more likely, a friendship for the afternoon) is born. But the French take weeks, months, even years to warm up to new people. Friendships aren't immediate, they're something that develop slowly over time. You have to get to know each other first, little by little. Just like me and Paris.