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City of Lights

Earlier this month, I fulfilled something on my bucket list; I went to Paris. With me were my wife, my sister (whose birthday we were celebrating), my niece (her daughter) and my mom. It was one of those trips that had a lot of magic; from the moment we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport I was enthralled.

The architecture of Paris is unique. When you see the buildings there you know you could be in no other city in the world. Paris goes beyond its architecture however. Paris isn’t just a collection of buildings and museums. Paris is a lifestyle and an attitude.

Parisians have an understanding about life. Life is meant to be lived, and lived well. It is meant to go at a pace that allows one to savor it. Lunch breaks in France are 90 minutes long, and paid. Here in the States, they are 30 minutes long and unpaid. That should tell you everything you need to know about the differences between French culture and American.

In case it doesn’t, let’s look at French culture. France didn’t invent culture but they certainly refined it. While there is a perception that there is a haughtiness about the French, that they consider theirs to be the only culture, I don’t think that’s true. There has been an infusion of late of Asian influences in French cuisine and in the culture of France and I find that delightful to be truthful. It puts lie to the rumors that the French are inflexible about their own culture.

I wouldn’t blame them if they were, however. They have a wonderful appreciation of art, of fashion, of cuisine. We Americans tend to look down on those things. Our culture is one built on testosterone; these things aren’t manly by our standards. We look on them as effeminate, wimpy conceits that are the province of matrons and gay men.

That’s bullshit. I don’t think a real man has to justify his likes to anyone; I’m manly enough to admit I love art and cuisine. Fashion isn’t my style – that doesn’t mean that men can’t be interested in it though; there’s nothing un-manly about wanting to look good.

The French love their action pictures as much as anybody. If you don’t believe me, check out anything by Luc Besson or Olivier Megaton (best name for an action director ever). They also adore the sensual, which is also definitely un-American. Our Puritan souls don’t allow for anything that doesn’t  have to do with making money.

But there is more to life than working our asses off and watching football over the weekend. Our souls need more; we need to recognize the good things in life and enjoy them for what they are. That doesn’t necessarily make us sheer hedonists, but I don’t think that ignoring anything that our senses appreciative is particularly healthy either.

In France, people don’t live to work – they work to live. Life shouldn’t revolve around your job – your job should revolve around your life. That’s not an un-American thought; quite the contrary. It is far more civilized than that.


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