Just as there are always foreigners moving to Paris, there will always be brave souls willing to put their experiences to pen and paper. Let’s see, there’s the whole gamut from Ernest Hemingway, to John Baxter to Adam Gopnik who all have written about their sojourn to Paris. The Johnny come lately on to the scene is Bryce Corbett, a transplanted Australian. Bored to tears in London, with no prospects (either in love or career), he decides to accept a job offer, and it’s a rather cushy one at that, in Paris. He embarks on his new life with great gusto and his book A Town Like Paris essentially details his adventures and scrapes in the city of light.
His writing style is quick and breezy and I have the impression that he writes exactly as he speaks. Nothing is safe from his frequently acerbic observations of French life or foibles and if the tone is at times arrogant and knowing, his obvious affection for the city of Paris and even life in Paris somehow makes up for it. Readers will certainly appreciate that he has made the effort to present his experiences in a humorous way given that moving to a new country where one has neither family nor friends is not the easiest thing.
Reading the book made me recall my initial experiences when I first moved to Paris. And it was interesting to note the differences between them. One of the things that struck me was the anecdote about the French attitude towards alcohol at dinner parties. He found it strange that at French parties, no one ever made the first move to pour drinks and as a consequence all the bottles were waiting at the table while people mingled and circulated without drinks. Needless to say, he soon succumbed to pouring his own drink at such parties despite the frequent gasps of horror he heard when he did it. Funnily enough my problem in the beginning was that copious amounts of alcohol always flowed so freely that it was all I could do to refuse the umpteenth refill of my drink!
Whatever differences in experience we might have, I do agree with Bryce on one thing. We share the inescapable experience of the expatriate in Paris. Neither he nor I will ever be Parisian, but our home now is Paris.
And now a Question for all RWB readers, what has been your most memorable expatriate experience in Paris? Email or post a comment and share it with us!