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Paris: What a Difference a Decade Makes

Coat of arms of Paris, France

I have been in Paris for several days, and I am surprised by many changes that have occurred in the more than ten years since I was last here. If there is a theme that ties most of those changes together, it is that the world is a much smaller place. Between the Internet and international travel, foreign influences cannot be excluded.

I am fascinated by this topic, because for many years I have been somewhat of a Francophile and Francophone. The great attractions – the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Luxembourg Garden, etc. – make Paris as beautiful as ever and should not be missed. However, I have seen a number of changes in the city’s everyday life:

  • More Parisians speaking English – This seems to be universal among those in their 20s. A taxi driver explained this is the case because all students are required to study English starting at about age 11.
  • More Asian restaurants and other businesses – Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai establishments appear to be particularly prevalent, now, in Paris.
  • Continuously-available food service – Years ago, the jet-lagged traveler whose internal clock demanded food in the middle of the afternoon was out of luck, because restaurants shut down between lunch and dinner. Today, many Paris restaurants offer food all day long.
  • Fewer smokers – Smoking appears to be less prevalent. However, as in many U.S. cities, applicable law requires smoke-free workplaces, so smoking on sidewalks during breaks is common.
  • Greater obesity – Not nearly to the extent in the U.S., but noticeable – perhaps as a result of less smoking and more-available food.
  • More-casual dress – There appears to be less interest in wearing the latest fashions and looking as beautiful as possible.
  • Animated pharmacy signs – Nowadays, the familiar, illuminated green-cross sign flashes and moves to gain attention. A friend told me that prices and inventories were decontrolled by the government, so there is greater competition for customers.
  • Better-tasting water – I don’t have objective statistics supporting this assessment, but I’m reasonably confident that tap water in Paris tastes better than it did when I was last here.

In summary, Paris still is a wonderful place to visit, and I’m delighted to be here. But it’s interesting to see these developments in a city that, previously, held traditions strongly and resisted change.

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law  +1 510 547-0545  dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.

  1. 9/19/2011 | 2:51 pm Permalink

    Hi Dana,

    I hope you and yours are having a wonderful time! I went to school in Paris many years ago and I was delighted to have the opportunity to return recently. I want to offer a slightly different perspective about the standards of dress.

    Although I know people are dressing more casually, just as you’ve said, I also know many Parisian women are still very conscious of their grooming, demeanor and overall look. Even if they are dressing “down”, in general, I found Parisian women’s efforts to be well-presented far exceed our own.

    Personally, I found this to be so inspiring!

    Thanks for your comments, and for reminding me of one of my favorite places on earth!


  2. 9/20/2011 | 4:15 am Permalink

    I see things similarly: They may wear designer jeans rather than haute couture, but they want dress, shoes, hair and makeup to look just right.