With a nine-hour time difference, Paris is about as far as you can get from Vancouver geographically. Its also completely different culturally, ethnically and lifestyle wise. While we busy ourselves with not talking to each other, avoiding eye contact on the bus and jogging along the Seawall, Parisians chat on street corners, strike up conversations with strangers, and sit in streetfront cafés and along the Seine drinking red wine and smoking Lucky Strikes.
While were more of an early-to-bed, early-to-rise metropolis (all the better to cram in early-morning bootcamp before the Toronto markets open), Parisians seems to wake up around 10 am, just in time for a leisurely (real, not Starbucks) coffee before checking in at work around 10:45. A one-to-two hour lunch filled with bread and wine follows around 1 pm, and the workday ends anywhere between 4 and 6 pm. Meanwhile, Ive been at this desk for 7 hours straight with a few more to go.
But aside from work hours (or lack thereof) or liberal liquor laws, the greatest difference between the two cities is with gyms. Here, theyre multi-level gathering spaces with neon signs and a phalanx of treadmills in front of floor-to-ceiling windows. Cathedrals of vanity. In Paris theyre hidden underground with discreet signage. Parisians are just as body-conscious and vain as we are (if not more so), but theyre just rightly a little embarrassed by it.
And despite all the cheese and wine and cigarettes, Parisians still look better than we do. Maybe its because they also know how to dress. So in the interests of raising us all up a level, here are the two most noticeable trends on the streets of Paris.
Ladies, after years of flat-irons, Japanese straightening, and fearing rainy days (in Vancouver?), your hairs au naturel time has come. Le tout Paris is letting their naturally curly locks fly proudly. Whether its a poodle-y blunt bob or a lions mane of curls, women are brushing out their hair and letting it do its own thing. Unfortunately, for those of you with straight hair, perms may be on the horizon. Big hair is alive and well in France.
No matter how hot it gets, the stylish men of Paris be they scruffy hipsters in skinny jeans or hommes daffaires in shiny Brioni suits wear a summer-weight scarf tied in a French loop. Every. Single. Man. (Well, except the tourists.) The summer scarf trend that never really took off here (except for a healthy cadre of Waldorf Hotel patrons) is all over Paris.
And yet, for all its food, fashion, and fun, I was ever so happy when my plane finally touched down here at home. As I passed men in the dreaded socks-and-sandals combo or girls in the Vancouver Special (Canucks jersey and leggings), I thought about all of Paris inconveniences, like hallway lights on turn-off timers, all-in-one washer/dryers, street garbage and per-minute internet billing. While we should try to emulate a few of Paris better qualities, we have some pretty good ones of our own. All in all, Paris is a great place to visit (or to be from), but I wouldnt want to live there.