New York Through Parisian Eyes

There’s a book we like by Olivier Magny called Dessine-moi un Parisien (Draw Me a Parisian). It covers the way Parisians see the world through various topics in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. We get a kick out of how every chapter hits the nail right on the head, so when I came across the one about New York I wanted to share it. Having come from there I’m surprised by how similar the relationships are between the two cities, regardless of which side you start on. Keep in mind the original has a bit of a sarcastic tone and should be read as such. Hopefully my translation will hold up:

New York

The question “Where would you like to live?” has only one acceptable answer in Paris: New York. Living in New York is the dream of the Parisian.

He thinks of himself as culturally on top of things, the Parisian. Like all cultural beings he builds his perception of a place or a people from the works that relate to it. In the case of New York, his imagination was fed by Home Alone 2, Friends, You’ve Got Mail, Sex and the City, or The Devil Wears Prada.  He wants to take part in this New Yorker reality, meeting up with his own friends at the Central Perk café.

As a result, a good number of Parisians eventually make the journey. For most of them, Pandora’s Box then opens: New York is as vibrant as Paris is sleepy; as young as Paris is old; as fast-paced as Paris is slow. The Parisian has always loved the charm of Paris, but now is suddenly hypnotized by the sex appeal of New York. Paris is his wife, New York is his mistress.

He will then feel the unrelenting need to proclaim to the world his love for New York. The young Parisian will show it by wearing logoed clothes, the “I ♥ NY” t-shirt being a must. If worn in the right context this shirt can be the pinnacle of both chic and cool. A more stylish Parisian will prefer an NYPD t-shirt. Clothes bearing the FDNY insignia on the other hand are reserved exclusively for the gay Parisian community.

There’s nothing more chic than having New Yorker friends. Having open access to this pantheon of culture will give a Parisian long-lasting prestige over his lesser-endowed friends. It’s indeed impossible for a New Yorker to be anything other than “super cool”. A Parisian won’t miss a chance to thrust upon his French friends advice on all the neighborhoods and bars to visit in New York. He’ll liberally use the phrase “a bit underground” with a smile of satisfaction.

When speaking of New York, the Parisian’s favorite word by far will be “energy” which he’ll use repeatedly. “Young”, “great”, and “spirit” will also be employed ad nauseam. All of them indicate an undeniable and profound knowledge of the New York social codes. Such is the Parisian: conscious of social norms and always beyond cliché.

The younger generation’s taste for New York isn’t without consequence. Parisian daily life is New York-ified more each day. The cool replaces the authentic, the new surpasses the old.

Paris, slowly, starts to feel “small town”.

— Olivier Magny

6 comments

  • I know Olivier, and it’s funny because this book actually came about because of the blog he writes in English called “Stuff Parisians Like”. The English (ie original) version of Dessine-moi un Parisien will be coming out this summer. He also owns a fun wine company here in Paris called “O-Château”. You should Google both the blog & the company – it’s not often that you come across a French guy with such entrepreneurial spirit! ;)

    • Wow, no kidding! This is weird because within a few days of each other I: a) read about O-Château, b) saw a French guy in a travel video, c) translated this article, then finally realized it was the same guy connected to all three. Will definitely share this info with my readers so they can check him out. Thanks a lot for the heads up!

      • Nah it’s not spammy — we all need a bit of promotion now and again. Hence my new French Frye in Paris-embossed bread tins I’ll be sending out to every Parisian bakery. Thanks for the link ksam, I’ll definitely check that out!

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