Paris vs. New York (Do I Have to Choose?)

©Lisa Anselmo. All rights reserved.

©Lisa Anselmo. All rights reserved.

I rarely write about my New York life—not because I don’t love it, but because I live here most of the time, and take it for granted, I suppose. But New York is New York; there is no other city like it, and I relish the things that make it unique—from the adventurous and diverse cuisine, to the don’t-mess-with-me attitude. It’s not diplomatic but it’s friendlier than people give it credit for; more open to strangers, I’ve found, than the oft-guarded and sometimes haughty Paris. Sure, New Yorkers are a tough bunch, but we’re resilient, and yes—optimistic, even after the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, the economic collapse of 2008, and last year’s Hurricane Sandy. New York, knuckle under? Puh-leez. Yeah, that’s my town.

New York: Where I Get Things Done
After an extended time in Paris, I admit I begin to crave the in-your-face-itude of my New York life. I’m enterprising, and love to be in a city where that is encouraged. In France, where Holland’s policies threaten to bury the entrepreneur in taxes that make it nearly impossible to be self-employed, my Parisian friends complain of feeling oppressed, prohibited from stepping outside the line. They look to New York as a place where all things are possible. And it’s true; if you got gumption, you can go far in this burg.

Sipping slowly at la Marine on Quai de Valmy

Sipping slowly at la Marine on Quai de Valmy.  ©Lisa Anselmo

New York charges me up; Paris recharges me.

But New York can be an ugly, brutal place, too. Its architecture tends toward steely and masculine; the scale of it can overwhelm you. The pace is relentless. New York is not a place, for example, where you can park yourself for hours at a sunny sidewalk table and just sip on a cuppa joe or glass of wine. In fact, you can’t even have a table on the terrace if you’re not eating. And sit for hours? Whattya nuts? In New York, chairs at terrace tables don’t face out toward the street as they do in Paris, they face the table where you should be focusing on eating. If you want to dally and watch passersby, go sit on a park bench, for freakin’ Pete’s sake.

Paris: Where I Dream Things Up
Unlike in New York, in Paris I once sat at a table on the canal for 3 hours, holding court while various friends came and went. No one bothered me—in fact, I had to flag down my server for another round. If I were in New York, I’d be annoyed, but in Paris, it’s just part of the pace, and it can be delicious if you let it take you over. The art of flanerie—aimless strolling or lounging—has been extolled for nearly 200 years, from Balzac to Larousse. A flaneur would be considered a loafer in New York, while in Paris, he is a “passionate spectator.” To stroll, to observe, to explore is essential to living a full life. As a creative person, this above all is why Paris is so important to me and why, after an extended time in hectic New York, I crave my Paris pace. The tempo of the flaneur feeds my alpha brain, inspiring my best ideas. Wonderful, beautiful, dreamy Paris. Yeah, that’s my town, too.

Chairs just waiting for flaneurs to sit and observe passionately.

Chairs just waiting for flaneurs to sit and observe passionately. ©Lisa Anselmo

Paris or New York? The Verdict
I need Paris and I need New York, in equal parts. New York charges me up; Paris recharges me. When people ask if I will ever move to Paris full time, I pause to consider a life without New York, then shake my head. Not right now, no. I’m lucky to have a foot in both places, a home in both places. I get the best of both cities—and when one city gets the best of me, I always have the other to help me recoup.

book page

My signed copy of Muratyan’s Paris versus New York. ©Lisa Anselmo

Click to explore Paris versus New York by Vahram Muratyan

7 responses to “Paris vs. New York (Do I Have to Choose?)

  1. Gosh, I am so jealous…to have a choice between New York or Paris. Keep both I say! I am really looking forward to reading your story from the beginning.

    • If I could find a way to get paid to sit at cafes all day I would do that tomorrow——oh, wait! A restaurant reviewer? A travel writer? Maybe I CAN get paid to sit at cafes!

  2. We’ve lived in both Paris and New York, and we can so relate. New York has got this undeniable energy that just makes you so productive (and at times, frantic), and Paris has just got love and romance in the air. They both breathe life. Don’t make us choose either!

  3. Pingback: Paris, In Long Strides | My (Parttime) Paris Life·

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