Last week B and I went for a 6 day trip to Paris for vacation. It was wonderful and we had a lot of fun, not much relaxing though. Paris really has a lot of sightseeing to offer and so many places to visit, so we walked around almost all the time every day to see and experience as much as possible in our short time there. Six days may sound like a lot in one city but to see everything we wanted to see we would have had to stay twice as long. So there are still some things left for a second visit some time in the future. We went to see all the major attactions like the Louvre, Eiffel tower, Sacré-Cœur, Notre Dame Cathedral, Sainte Chapelle, Panthéon, Arc de Triomphe, took a boat tour on the river Seine, did sightseeing by bus and much much more.
Visiting another country always makes the differences between countries more visible and so did this trip. At first thought perhaps there shouldn’t be so big differences between Sweden and France since they are both in Europe, quite close and France has influenced Sweden quite a lot in the past (for example many words have french origin). While we were there though we found a few things we appriciate about living in Sweden that we normally take for granted. It’s good to be reminded about these things sometimes to be more happy about the small things in life. These are some of the things we were reminded of:
- Drinking-water. In Sweden we have very good quality of our drinking-water (=tap-water). The taste is different in different cities but it’s almost always very tasty. It’s one of the things I usually appriciates and misses most when traveling. It feels so strange to either not be able to drink the tap-water or that it taste quite bad, and it also feels unnecessary to have to go and buy water on bottle. So much transportation and perhaps no system for recycling of plastic bottles.
- Public transportation. It’s usually easy to use and adapted so that most types of people can use it, including elderly and disabled people. The best public transportation system I have seen however was in Singapore – super clean, safe and on time. Paris on the other hand probably had a very old metro system, so much stairs everywhere so it can be very difficult for example for elderly people to use it. Some stations were really nice (my guess is the newest ones) and some stations were smelly and leaking water, I hope they will renovate the metro system soon.
- Good service. Most people who work in service occupation know how to give good service, be helpful and polite. It might have been because of the language barrier but in general people in Paris were not that helpful or service minded. On the other hand the language shouldn’t be that big problem, many countries that I have been to have been service minded and polite even if we don’t understand eachother at all.
- Less divided society. We also have poor and rich people in Sweden but in general people are on a similar level, at least you don’t see any major differences between people just walking down a normal street. In Paris we saw a lot of homeless people living on the street in the centre of the city, and at the same time across the street were people sitting outside the Opera house drinking wine.
- Coffee-cup size. I don’t even drink coffee but B does so it was quite funny when he ordered a large black coffee and got a very tiny cup. We are usued to seeing the really big cups people use here in Sweden, but perhaps it’s nothing to be too suprised about really. After all, people in Sweden are among the countries that drink the most coffee per person in the world.
There were also some things that seems better about Paris and France. There are probably a lot more but during our few days there these were the ones that we saw:
- Integration. People seem to mix more within the city,you see all kind of people everywhere. Of course we didn’t visit all parts of Paris but those we saw, and also from what we’ve heard people are more open-minded about different backgrounds. In Sweden we still have some problems with this, people should mix more and not let one place (part of the city) be too dominated by one group (be that Swedish or any other group of people).
- Language skills. It seems like everyone (well except us tourists) can speak french quite well, even all immigrants. Perhaps it’s too difficult to live there without speaking french because it’s not accepted to not learn the language. I think it’s really good if everyone living there can communicate in one language, it probably helps the integration as well. In Sweden it’s not 100% neccessary to learn Swedish I think, people can still live here if they speak english or go to local shops where people speak their own language.
I hope this post doesn’t sound too negative about Paris because that’s not how I meant it or why I wanted to write it. There are always things that differ between countries and I think it’s good to both be reminded about the things we appriciate about the country we are from or living in currently, but also good to be made aware of things that could be improved there.