by Melinda Gallo

Transitioning from one city to another

The moment I step foot on the plane, I begin my transition to the city I’m flying to. Yesterday I took off for Paris for a couple of weeks. To the stewardess who greeted me at the entrance of the plane, I immediately spoke French, “Bonjour.” It’s one small shift that then puts in motion many others, which tend to occur slowly as I fly over Italy and then France.

I enjoy the 90-minute flight because it’s just the right amount of time for me to alter myself in small ways from Italian to French.

In Florence, I am more governed by my emotions. If I feel like doing something, I do it. Otherwise I don’t. The Florentines have taught me that I have to check in with my emotions before doing anything. It has brought about an aspect of simplicity and respect that I hadn’t experienced before. When I’m in Paris, I know that if I say that I will go to dinner with someone, I feel obligated to keep my word. It wouldn’t go over well if I said that I suddenly didn’t feel like it.

When I arrive in Pairs, I also become a bit more distant with others. In France, we use the formal form of you, “vous,” to address people we don’t know personally whereas in Florence, we generally use the informal form of you, “tu,” regardless of our relationship with the person. It’s a small difference, but certainly an important one. It is a shift that requires my investing a little less of myself in conversation with strangers.

The transition from Florence to Paris takes me more out of myself and into more of the “norms” of the society. I don’t mind the shift and actually respect each city for its affect on my surroundings and me. I feel that I am friendlier with people in Paris although I know that there is no ulterior motive on my part. We won’t become friends. Unlike in Florence where many of my friends are people I’ve met in shops. Over time, sometimes a lot of time, we have become close and have shared more about ourselves. It is one of the beautiful gifts that I have received by living in Florence.

In Paris, I don’t have much hope of a shopkeeper becoming one of my friends. It has never happened, but I don’t doubt that it couldn’t happen.

When I stepped off the plane and grabbed my luggage, I knew that my Florentine ways were tucked away and the Parisian ones became more present. In all my interactions with people, French would be the language I respond in. When I leave the airport, I feel ready for my stay in Paris. I generally chat with the taxi driver. I feel that the distance between us is perfect and representative of Paris: friendly and polite, yet not too personal.

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