Sunday, January 14, 2007

Here versus There

This time two years ago, I was still living in Paris. I spent two years in the city of lights before we moved and we're about 21 months into this Rémois adventure.

A subject of conversation that crops up fairly regularly in this household is living here versus there. Aside from the expected, that we have a better quality of life in a smaller city next to the countryside, Frog frequently claims that part of this is also due to the fact that there are simply no Parisians in our daily lives.

I was reminded of this subject recently by several things. Firstly, by her post the other day, in which she touches on this topic. I have to say everything noted about what the people in the provinces think about the Parisians rang very, very true in this household.

There are several expatriate bloggers that I follow, some are in Paris and I enjoy their observations on life in the city. However, there is nothing more irritating to me when an observation is made about 'the French' or 'France' and I think : NO! You're talking about Paris and its inhabitants. There is often a gulf between their habits and behaviours and those of the provinces.

Finally, I was embarassed to find an email in my inbox from the end of last November that I haven't replied to yet. The email came from a woman who had found my site whilst googling "living in Reims". Since she was considering a move to Reims to research and write about the champagne industry, she wanted to know my thoughts. In true laziness, I have waited nearly two months to reply and have now copied and pasted her questions below, along with my thoughts.

Your story interests me, as you're an English-speaking woman who has chosen to live in France & especially in Reims.
Hmmm... choice. Well, I was offered a job in Paris that was too good to refuse. I was young-ish, free, single and was offered a senior position on a European team, living in Paris, with expatriate benefits for a couple of years. "Well, okay then, why not..." pretty much sums up my the result of my period of consideration.

I wouldn't say I especially chose to live in Reims. North-eastern France is not the most attractive area, although €5 a coupe of champagne doesn't hurt. There are far warmer climes and Mediterannean lifestyles to be had in this country. However, the man I met in Paris had a very good reason to move here to start working with the family business. This decision was certainly more considered than, "Well, okay then, why not..." but the move to Reims, specifically, was more about his opportunity than mine. But yes, I'm very happy that I signed up for this new adventure.

What are your thoughts on the welcome the people in Reims give you as apposed to Parisians?
This is actually a less obvious question than you might think. Sure, the stereotypical Parisians are pain in the arse people. The 'true' Parisians move in tight social packs and don't easily let anyone in. They are not like Londoners vs English, Parisians are more of a 'type' than anything I found in London. However, Paris is an international city and many 'Parisians' are not really Parisian. I was lucky to work in a young international company and most of my team weren't 'Parisian' and even lived outside the French norms. By that I mean they socialised outside of work and I made several enduring friendships from the office.

By contrast, if Reims was like many other provincial cities, you would consider the people to be welcoming and friendly. However, this is Reims. The Rémois are renowned for being bourgeoisie (despite the fact that the city has the highest amount of social housing per capita in the country) and are pretty cold. I was warned of this fact by my (Parisian) boss before I moved here, she had studied at the (highly rated) Business School and was shocked by the people's attitudes here. The friendly folks from the region next to us, Les Ardennes, constantly remark on how difficult they find the Rémois. We have been lucky in that we have 'instant entry' into local life through the in-laws. However, despite the fact that Frog grew up here, we have a very low key social life, and those friends we have are originally from other regions.

Is the cost of living reasonable given it's not as big as Paris?
I think the overall cost of living is lower here. However, you have more choice in Paris - meaning a larger selection for life at the more budget end and more free galleries, events, selection of restaurants, shops etc. But housing is certainly a lot cheaper in Reims.

Any advice to someone thinking of embarking on a life (even a temporary one) in Reims?
Reims is only 1 hours and 40 minutes from Paris. And from June we'll have the new TGV Est which will make Gare de l'Est just 45 mins from the door. So, you could look at it either way. You can easily escape to Paris, or base yourself in Paris and easily visit Reims. However, for all my complaining, I do like it here. The centre is small and charming, you might not immediately be made to feel like a local by others but it's very easy to find your way around quickly. Don't expect a rich cultural or diverse lifestyle, although if you dig just a little there are some interesting things going on.

Frog and I love to visit Paris. It constantly amazes me how I manage to forget what a wonderful place it is. Yet, I always travel back feeling the same way: I'm so pleased I came, but glad to be going back home to Reims.

No comments: