The place I live in is important to me--maybe even vital. My stay in Paris reminded me of just how much a place can affect me. Since I moved to Florence, I havenít lived anywhere else for an extended period of time as a local, like I just did in Paris. My stay there was enlightening: I hadnít gone back to Paris to live since I left it in 1995. I was able to experience the city again and enjoy it.
I had lived in France for a total of six years, and then moved to England for two years, always hoping to return. Before choosing to come to Florence--which was only supposed to be for three months--I had contemplated returning to Paris, which to me was home. At the time, I didnít even think about returning to California. I just felt that eventually I would end up in Paris again.
When I arrived in Florence, I had no idea that I would choose to live here permanently. Ever since I took French in high school, my life had always revolved around France. Upon my arrival in Florence, I started studying Italian. To do so, I had to not only set aside the language, but also certain aspects of myself that I had adopted while living in Paris.
After a couple of days in Paris, I felt as if I had never left. It was almost as if I had returned to a warm bath that felt comfortable and pleasant to me. The city has certainly endured many changes in 15 years, but all the aspects of the city that I loved were still present.
A place always rubs off on you, just like an important person in your life. We are exposed to the different qualities that we either adopt or not into our lives. There are many aspects of the French that I do love, like their formality, politeness, and sense of humor.
Each day I rediscovered aspects of Paris that I loved, but also others that I preferred in Florence. Paris allows for so much anonymity: I never came across anyone I knew in the streets or mťtro. A part of me really enjoys that, but I did miss not greeting people I know like I do here in Florence. I felt separate in Paris while here in Florence I feel a part of a community.
There were other aspects of Paris that I preferred, like their politeness. Itís probably the one thing that I feel is lacking in Florence. It was almost a shock coming back to Florence and getting jostled in the street. When I told my Florentine friends, they said to me, ďGli italiani sono maleducati. (Italians are rude.)Ē I felt sad to have to acknowledge what my friends said as being true. Fortunately there are many exceptions, but I did realize that I had to face the facts to not let it bother me so much.
People act differently in each place. Itís impossible for a place not to influence us. I saw it in my own life and how I changed too. I couldnít help but become more well-mannered. Itís impossible not to become more polite since itís so engrained in the language as well. I couldnít be as direct as I am in Italian; it would be considered rude.
I loved my recent stay in Paris because I did all the things I did when I was living there before: commuting to the office, working, spending time with my colleagues, going out with my friends, walking around the city, and relaxing on weekends. My lifestyle was completely different to the one I have in Florence. I not only made more plans than I usually do, although my stay was brief, but I also had with a fixed work schedule. I knew exactly when my free time was. In Florence, I take more breaks during the day and week, and try to enjoy the city as much as I can. My works schedule is much more flexible; I even work on weekends and late at night.
Being back in Paris reminded me of that joy and sense of belonging I had when I was living there initially. Paris definitely has a different energy than Florence. For me, Paris is all about pleasure while Florence is all about love. In Paris, itís difficult not to want to buy and consume everything you see. Itís all presented so well, and you know itís just as good as it looks. The pleasures here are simpler, and not as costly.
In Paris, I tend to focus more on everything that is external to me while in Florence I focus more on myself, and what makes my heart sing. My beloved city constantly nudges me to open my heart and act more out of love.
I thought a lot about how important a place is in my life. I donít believe it has the power to make me happy or sad, but it does bring certain aspects--both positive and negative--of myself to the forefront. I think that if I like who I become in a place, I will certainly choose it.
I still choose Florence as my home, not just because it is an amazing city, but because of how I feel when Iím here. Even though, like any city, it has a few negative traits, I still love living here. My connection to Florence is much more important than any negative trait that it might have. My heart beats to the rhythm of this city and nothing can change that.
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