What is the authentic Parisian experience?

Posted on Thursday, Jul 16, 2015

The American experience and fascination with Paris has been documented for decades on paper, film and now the internet. Paris is not a modern or structurally evolving city as it retains the same facades since their erection by Haussmann under Napoleon III, which is what gives the city its classic, familiar and unique atmosphere. There is also no drastic difference in the Parisian experience; people visit and want to eat quality fresh bread, see renowned art and visit historical sites. For those who want a more authentic Parisian visit might spend a day reading outside in a park, drink espressos and go to a local market for all their groceries. Still too cliché?
Metro, bulot, dodo.
That is the French formula for a non-cliché and completely authentic Parisian experience that I am lucky to currently be part-taking. Every morning during the week, I commute for 30 minutes on two different lines to arrive to Opera area of Paris. The RATP transportation system from my American perspective is on most days extremely effective; trains run every 2 minutes during rush hour, directions are clear and organized and the layout of the subway system is genius. On the days that the trains are late, hot or packed, I join the locals in a series of exasperated sighs and some shoving.
‘Bulot’ is the French colloquial term for work. I arrive at work after my metro commute and am greeted by some heavy security courtesy of working for the Department of Commerce. Here is where my experience as an American in Paris is the most unique as my work revolves entirely around American business interests with occasional international diplomacy experiences through the Embassy. On a regular day our office is involved with market research, trade missions and shows as well as responding to American businesses requests about entering the French market. The only indication that we are in Paris is the two-hour lunch break where everyone disappears. The office is under constant last-minute projects assignments or visits from delegations in Washington and it is our job as interns to prepare for these.
Finally after my day of work, commute back home, I engage in the slang term for sleeping: ‘dodo’. Housing in Paris is notorious for being complicated and expensive so it’s a conversation topic with everyone you meet. I live in student dorms on the southern edge of the city and return every evening to my modest sized room to open up the windows for fresh, cool air (there is rarely air conditioning in Paris) and get ready for the same routine for the following day.
My intern routine, like those of working Parisians, is predictable to a certain extent but the experience at the office is unique every day and continues to engage me differently every time. Working for the Department of Commerce has been a hands-on classroom for business and diplomacy and adding in the international factor by being in Paris has included some very special moments. I’ve enjoyed the tourist version of Paris as well; the tastes and sights of this city are a surreal experience and I’m thankful for both versions of the City of Lights. 

Maria Suarez
U.S. Commercial Service
Paris, France - Summer 2015

Tags: France, Paris, USCS