I don’t write tales of culture shock, or how American and French ways clash horribly. I like to write as a woman who always carries a little French culture in her without even really realizing it. I’ve never lived or worked in Paris yet each time I visit, it feels like home.
Je me sens chez moi. Paris has always felt like home to me.
My mom’s family has French heritage dating back to the French Revolution. Half of my last name, “Mauzy,” is from the town of Mauzé Sur le Mignon. My mother spent a year of university abroad studying French and can speak it conversationally. I also grew up half an hour from the Quebec border, so French was all around growing up. Simple phrases peppered my conversations for as long as I can remember.
So, is it any wonder that Paris keeps drawing me to her? After two one-week visits as a tourist, I finally had the privilege of living short-term in Paris on and off for the last year.
Love at first sight
The first time I came to the city of light was in March 2014. I came with my older sister and one of our best friends to compete in ski events in the French Alps. We initially stayed with a high school friend of my mother’s who had been living in Paris for over 20 years. We were treated to her apartment in one of the classical Haussman buildings in the 7th arrondissement with a view of the Eiffel tower from the end of the block, and a twice-a-week bustling market.
It was magical to an 18-year-old year old girl from Connecticut, USA. We did typical tourist things like go to France’s most popular museum, the Louvre, and walk up the iconic Eiffel Tower in the heart of the city. We ate in local bistrots and brasseries, and strolled endlessly through the city admiring its historical beauty and twinkling lights. We paid attention to wearing clothes we thought looked more European, outfits with more natural tones and stylish jackets. On the last day, we sat in the Luxembourg Gardens and tried to guess where people were from based on their clothing, and listened attentively to the languages spoken as they passed by to see if we were right.
My second trip to Paris was in July 2019. This time, I went with my mom and younger sibling for a week as part of our month-long summer trip around Europe. We stayed at the same friend’s apartment. On the first night, we ended up watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle from Place du Trocadéro and then walked down to the park to picnic on the grass. Close by was a group of French teenagers listening to American classic rock. My mom told them in French how much she liked listening to their music and we ended up hanging out with them, drinking wine from the bottle and dancing in the park. It was the absolute movie-perfect first night in Paris. We stayed for the traditional Bastille day celebrations and enjoyed wine, bread and cheese in a garden packed with a huge crowd of Parisians. The evening was topped by a fantastic firework show around the Eiffel Tower.
Three times a charm
My younger sibling, Jilly, decided to do the fall university semester of 2021 in Paris. After being cooped up at home during the pandemic, and doing French every day online with Duolingo, I said, “If you’re going to go live in Paris, I am too.”
We rented a one-bedroom chambre de bonne in a three-story old manor home on the quiet street of rue de Charenton half a block from the Place de la Bastille. Not only did Jilly and I go, but we brought our little princess dog, Lyona. We took her everywhere with us: to the major museums, events, galleries, and even shopping. Many restaurants had signs saying no dogs allowed, but no waiter refused service to our irresistible dog.
Right away we dove into “local life” as much as we could. I walked Lyona every morning in the park above the strip of Viaduc des Arts artist workshops and made friends with other locals in our neighborhood. We made every effort to speak entirely in French to shop owners and vendors at the famous Bastille market. We saw our family friend once a week and met many others through her such as expats, immigrants, Europeans, and local French.
While my sibling attended classes, I spent my time in the market or at the little shops talking with the staff in French about what I planned to cook or what cheese, herb, or wine would pair best. I love to cook. Going from shop to shop to get precisely what I need and then filling the apartment with the aromas of my latest meal was blissful.
I also indulged in my other Parisian passion: fashion. Not to collect and show off the designer label, but rather to go and sift through the local thrift shops and find the diamond in the threads. Spending time layering and cultivating an ensemble brings me much joy and fulfillment; it’s my way of making an artistic statement that reflects me.
The magnetic attraction of Paris
For eight weeks in the fall of 2021 and for another three weeks in the spring of 2022, I lived the Parisian life. In this city, there is the familiar, and always the new. I am in love with its beauty, its hectic heart and European lifestyle. I love the way I can get dressed for each adventure and the way I can be perfectly entertained by simply going for a walk and watching people.
I’ve been asked repeatedly about the Netflix TV series, “Emily in Paris,” about a young American woman discovering herself and her way around the French city. I actually didn’t watch it until recently. After the first episode, I initially felt that the stereotypes were too strong for me to enjoy. By the end of the season, I was able to laugh at both sides when the show pokes fun at the stereotypes of both US and French cultures. Personally, I didn’t experience many of the culture shocks Emily did but watching the show certainly makes me miss Paris.
Paris is indeed the dream city and my desire is to move to France in a few years, study French and start working in international event management and production.
This city is more than a place to me, and like many before me, Paris has become a part of me and is pulling me “home.”