Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Don't you miss the States?"

Ohhh- I wrote this a long time ago and forgot to publish it.

There was another AARO lunch meeting on Monday and, again, when someone new to Paris finds out I've been living here more than 37 years, I get the "Wow, but don't you (or, do you) miss the States?" "What do you like about living here?" There's also the wonderment of tourists: "Wow, how exciting!"
I miss people and things. And I'd miss the people if I lived across the country instead of in a different country. The things -- well, most of the things I thought I missed ended up here after a few years. I'm not in exile. I can, and do, return to the States for visits. I love visiting family and seeing old friends, just as I love having them visit me, here.
As I said, it's the people I miss. I find that the Internet these past 20 years has made that part easier. If I remember correctly, I talked about that in the very first post of this blog. It's easier and cheaper to keep in touch. So, first e-mail, followed by buddy lists, then multiple message sreveres and Skype, and professional networks on Plaxo and LinkedIn, and more recently, facebook and Twitter. Right now, I'm feeling overconnected. So, to sum up, I miss people less and less.
Now, on to the remark on how exciting it must be. I'm not going to say that living just outside Paris is not wonderful; it is! But, until just this past year, our time was taken up with the same things that eat up everyone's time: métro, boulot, dodo (commuting, work, sleep). Add to that: shopping for food, cooking, cleaning, ironing..... It's not exciting. For tourists and visitors, their time is taken up entirely with exciting things and it hardly matters where they are!
Lastly, what do I like about living here?
I live just outside Paris and I love the city. I love walking in Paris; it's easily covered on foot and it's beautiful. I like having the RER just a few minutes from home and it takes me into the center of the city in 15 minutes. I like it that lots of movie theaters in Paris show movies in V.O., because I hate dubbed versions. I like it that we can now watch TV shows in V.O. -- not always, but more and more every year. I don't like many French TV shows; I don't like the acting -- too stiff and unnatural. I'm addicted to American series if they're in English. I think I accept mediocrity in exchange for language. Don't get me wrong, I like French -- just not dubbed. I like going to the market for food, even though I usually go to the supermarket.
I like it that I was able to deliver 4 children and did not have to wonder if I could afford to have the babies. I like it that I have health coverage that is independent of an employer, that pre-conditions are not part of a decision to staying in a job you hate because you are covered and you would lose coverage if you changed jobs. I like it that I can choose my doctors. I like it that even those out of work are covered, that certain conditions and illnesses are covered 100%. We have a mixed system. Your basic health coverage is taken out of your salary; it's obligatory, but it doesn't give you 100% coverage unless you are suffering from one of those certain conditions or illnesses. Additional coverage through insurance companies or mutual insurance may be handled through your employer or you can find your own. This is what conservatives in the States are so afraid of: socialized medicine. It's not free. We pay dearly for it. But I wouldn't have it otherwise. I get excellent care, here.
I like it that there is a social safety net: unemployment benefits, minimum income when benefits run out. It's not 100% effective, but in this crisis period, although France is suffering, too, and jobs are disappearing left and right, it won't be quite as bleak as it seems to be for those in the States.
I like it that the French had an aversion to debt. Rules are very strict about getting mortgages. Debit cards are the norm; credit cards are relatively new. There are some cases of overindebtedness, but nothing like in the States.
There are plenty of things not to like, too. I think that it's normal to find some things better here and better there. When someone, French or American, starts telling me how far superior their country is, I start arguing in favor of the other!

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