Habitudes Nocturnes des Parisians 29/11/2009Posted by brendan in La Vie en Paris.
Tags: bars, clubs, france, house parties, metro, paris, weekend
Nights out on the town share certain universal truths but Parisians are unique creatures. Postcard scenarios are available to all world travelers hoping to idle away an evening sitting outside the innumerable cafes or stroll arm in arm along the Seine but the kids here play by their own rules.
Blessed with one of the most comprehensive transit systems in the world people think nothing of crossing the city to meet at a bar. The fact that this assigned location varies little from anything in between Point A and Point B is irrelevant. After meeting your friends outside a Metro station you’ll proceed to the chosen establishment and not go inside. Even if it’s cold and raining. There will be an alimentation générale (or Arab’s, if you prefer) nearby and 50cl Kronenbergs can be bought for less than 2€. The people who run the bar are not troubled by the hordes of underaged looking urchins intermingling with paying customers. At some point someone in your group will receive a text message from someone standing in front of another bar, probably across town. I suggest you walk with everyone to the metro and then go home.
Late Night Metro:
Parisians come off as being sophisticated and refined. Even when herded like cattle onto subway cars they maintain an air of elegance, their clothing resists wrinkles, their shoes always look new. However, as the clock winds down, these same air-brushed models will stagger through the complex underground maze of the Metro screaming, laughing and running. There are no rules governing public drinking so it’s perfectly acceptable to bring your own 12-pack of beer or, if you’re a trio of fourteen year old girls, several bottles of cheap red wine. It’s also socially acceptable to bounce from one wall of the car to another singing uproariously out of tune, en masse, and giggle hysterically. No one will even notice.
Apartments here are small. Often they consist of two rooms connected by means of a flimsy door or short, narrow hallway. People have been reared in an environment so restrictive that they exhibit no anxiety when locked in a cell holding three or four times the intended capacity. Everyone will smoke regardless of whether the window is open. If you leave the bottle you’ve been drinking from on a table someone will come and drink from it too. If you and your friends have been passing around a bottle and set it on a table someone will find a stack of plastic cups to share this with their friends. There will be ample amounts of cheap wine, very little beer, no liquor, and food with spilled wine and cigarette butts in it. Regardless of their ability or the availability of space someone will begin dancing. People will change the song in the middle and those dancing won’t notice. Strangers will talk to you and continue doing so after you have clearly shown you don’t speak French. You will be most welcome and no one will wonder why you’re there or who invited you.
A city of two million people with a booming tourist industry should have twenty-four hour transit. Inexplicably the Metro shuts down by one on weekdays and two on weekends. This probably has something to do with the unions but I’ve not been able to confirm this hunch– there is an infrequent night bus system that never gets you very close to where you’re going. This doesn’t bother Parisians. They refuse to begin their nights until ten or eleven and no one scurries off to catch the last train. Hosting a house party is an invitation for people to stay until dawn. Clubs that remain open after two sell outrageously priced drinks and play horrible music confident that no one has anywhere to go. Although most people rely on a combination of walking and the subway to get around the thought of having to walk home after a night out on the town is suddenly offensive. Cabs are expensive and the drivers balk at the thought of seven people squeezing into the back seat. The person who lives closest will welcome everyone to stay at their house, which means five people cram into one bed or share a blanket on the floor. Everyone will wonder why you went home so early or why you just didn’t make it out at all.