A couple of weeks ago, in the course of conducting online research for an upcoming article (which, to judge from my browsing history, will be about “French history,” “French population growth,” “demographics of France” and “French nudists wild beach party”) I happened across a site that gives economic and sociological statistics about Paris.
From it I learned that the average Parisian is middle-aged (39.5 years old) and middle class (with an annual income of €24,500), and lives in a middle-sized apartment (59 square meters, or about 640 square feet). Presumably in the middle of town, next door to a middle school whose middlebrow students get all C’s, part their hair down the center and flip their teachers the middle finger every Wednesday at noon.
In any case, this started me thinking about the profile of the “typical” Parisian. Generally I’m not one to make generalizations, but I’m also a knee-jerk wiseass, if such a thing is anatomically possible, and after living in Paris for nearly 30 years I can’t help but come up with a few statistical stereotypes of my own.
If you are that middle-aged, middle-class, middle-of-the-rue Parisian:
You were not born in Paris. There are maternity clinics all over town, but they must be exporting their babies to Middle Earth, because it is, in my experience, exceedingly and surprisingly rare to meet an adult who lives here and was actually born within the city limits. Like certain other places (New York, London, Antarctica), everyone comes from somewhere else.
When you were in your 20s, you went to a lot of parties, smoked cigarettes, hung out in cafés, ate often in restaurants and were, by American standards, remarkably promiscuous. Thank you for that, by the way.
If your grandmother lives within a 100-kilometer radius of Notre Dame, you go to see her every single Sunday afternoon no matter what. Or at least that’s what you told any American journalists you might have spent Saturday night with when you were in your 20s.
You are Catholic, but you use birth control and only go to church for weddings and funerals. Preferably your own.
In your early 30s you got married, quit smoking, or tried, and had two children. Obviously, they will not grow up to be typical Parisians, unless they were born while you were on vacation.
If your children are of school age, you are constantly nagging them to study harder so they can pass the Baccalauréat exam on the first try and get into a good university, like you did. Or at least like you’d like them to think you did.
Even if you don’t have children, your life is ruled by the school vacation calendar. You take the entire month of August off every year, because that’s what everyone else does. You invariably go to the beach. And you go skiing in the mountains for one week in March when the schools have their winter break. If you do have children, they spend their vacations somewhere else.
You own, or aspire to own, a car, despite the fact that driving between any two points in Paris is way more expensive and waaaay slower than taking public transportation, not to mention more eco-hostile and just plain exasperating. When you find yourself in a traffic jam, which is all the time, you mutter, “Where do all these jerks think they’re going?”
And you have one more characteristic that mystifies me:
You don’t like Paris. You complain at every opportunity about the crowds, traffic, pollution, cigarette smoke, etc.
For this reason you own, or aspire to own, a house in the country. If you have one already, you consider it to be your “real” residence and you go there every weekend, as though there were an 11th commandment, the only one you have never broken, that says, “Thou shalt remember not necessarily just the Sabbath day but every non-work day and keep them all holy by getting the hell out of town.”
Oh wait — I forgot one:
If you’re a typical Parisian, you have probably seen “French nudists wild beach party.” That video had more than 50 million views.
© 2012 Paris UpdateFavorite
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