It’s been 2 weeks today since we’ve arrived in Paris and well, Paris is lovely and all that, I’m not starving and have lots of free time to soak in the culture–NOT. My free time is consumed by my 2 munchkins who, because of the tight living quarters we now share (50 m2 1-bedroom apartment), continue to brawl more and more, and this behaviour has carried over in public view. I am further adding to the French notion that North Americans are loud as I yell at my children to “STOP IT!” and grab them like a nightclub bouncer to give them a good “bollocking” in a nearby corner. The French are relatively quiet speakers. Perhaps living in apartments or such close quarters makes one more aware of neighbours’ proximities and privacy is hard to come by in a city of over 2 million people. (Mind you, it’s not like that in China, and there are way more people in tighter quarters.) My kids’ “indoor voice” is incredibly loud in the apartment. Come to think of it, so is mine. Maybe it’s that Chinese gene of loudness that is now more evident than before. (And my kids are only half Chinese. So that makes me terrifically loud. And anyone who knows my parents know that they’re very traditionally Chinese about their volume!)
On a cheerier note, Parisians are quite respectful of families and have treated me kindly when I have Clarisse and William with me. I have on many occasions, bumped into people’s feet because of the sheer number of pedestrians on narrow sidewalks or the cobblestone paths have made it difficult to manoeuvre the stroller. In Toronto, I have been given dirty looks, even a nasty comment. Here, people turn reluctantly and then completely look apologetic when they see me with the stroller, say “Pardon” to me, and quickly get out of my way! Even teenagers have signalled their peers to clear my path. We’ve experienced strangers to give us their seats on the packed metro (subway) and we’ve been whisked through the museum entries by security (after checking my backpack to find a “Hello Kitty” umbrella and our Disney princess snack bag). Paris is definitely family-friendly.