Parisian August

Grateful graduate project: Reasons 218- 227

As is the case in several parts of continental Europe, life slows down quite significantly in August. Bakeries, restaurants, and other daily haunts roll down their blinds and head off for holidays. These generally come to an end after the 15th of August, or thereabouts – the 15th being the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. For those not up to date with their Catholic theology, this is a celebration of when Mary, God’s mother, is believed to have ascended in body to heaven. For those who believe, it is a hopeful and important holiday – for the rest, it’s a free holiday. Or, a marker of when to get back to work.

The month of August is fabulous for foreign grad students as a chance to:
1. Reconnect with family, travel home guilt free, or better still,receive guests from abroad;
2. Do some intensive practicing of French, spending countless hours immersed in French language;
3. Read up on the latest academic work, become up to speed and ahead of the game before term starts again;
4. Walk on and off metro’s without nervous Parisians, the majority are away on holiday;
5. Get to jog and do outdoor exercise with reduced risk emanating from murderous drivers;
6. As of this year, having a de-zoned transport pass to allow one to travel in Paris and its surrounds at a reasonable price;
7. Getting to enjoy the urban beach – a perfect substitute for constantly cash strapped students. If you can’t get to the sea, the sea comes to you;
8. Not having any administrative work to do – no forms to submit, documents to photocopy, appointments to attend… Everyone is on holiday, and the bureaucratic work that occupies the majority of one’s waking life goes away too.. For a short while at least;
9. Being able to transgress the usual dress code, being able to be casual, even daring to add a bit of color to the wardrobe without fear of being out of place. The rest of the year it is back to basics – black, grey, white.. Perhaps navy and off white. Summer is the chance to get a bit ‘loud’;
10. There seems to be less judgement for people who walk and eat at the same time. There are fewer old Parisian women staring and saying rude things about street eaters…

The atmosphere, for a few weeks, loses the neurosis, the rudeness, the judgemental attitudes of Paris that we all love; The hoards of idealistic tourists transform it into a completely different urban experience, into a love fest of sorts. People who visit Paris in August are almost guaranteed of a very delightful experience.

I am thankful for this pause in the year, and the opportunity to breathe. Paris in its most stuck-up, judgmental, superior is still completely adorable, and a reason to love staying here… But for this little window period of civil behaviour and universal love, one can only be grateful.