I live in France. I don’t live in Paris. I used to live in Paris.

People sometimes ask me about something going on in Paris. I can only answer with, “Um… I don’t really know the details about that. I don’t live in Paris.”

Occasionally, I’ll be asked, “So, how’re things in Paris?”

“Well, fine as far as I know. But, I can only guess because… I don’t live in Paris.”

A little over 6 years ago, I stepped off a plane at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Olivier was still my husband-to-be & I was not yet Madame Massoud. He fetched me & my Cat at the airport, along with all the possessions I could bring along with me.

He took us home, to his apartment in Montmartre. All of you who are either already familiar with the area, or who are Francophile Amelie geeks, know that Montmartre is located in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. For the rest of you, here’s a nice picture:

The three of us lived there, smooshed together in that tiny one bedroom 4th floor apartment, for just over 2 years. Somehow, we managed to get out of there without assaulting our rude & noisy neighbors with a lance. (Shut up. I could have a lance. You don’t know.) We survived the smog, the noise, daily treks across the city in the métro & being able to look directly into other people’s apartments.

Proof that all Paris apartments do not have a view of the Eiffel Tower.

Then, at the beginning of 2008, we moved. We stopped living in Paris.

Where we went: Sucy-en-Brie.

Okay, so it’s not too far from Paris. It’s about 10.5 miles away from Paris. 17 kilometers if you’re a metric speaker. Then again, you can’t get anywhere in France by moving in a straight line, so those 10 miles end up being a lot longer than one might think. After taking a bus to the train station for about 10 minutes or so, I then jumped on a train & after a total of 30-40 minutes, I was in Paris. Once I arrived in the city, I then needed to take the métro to reach my final destination.

So… for a little more than 3 years, we enjoyed our place in an apartment complex situated in the quieter, calmer suburbs of Paris. We still had smog, though a bit less of it. We still had noise, though it was different noise with less obnoxious sounds & fewer blaring car horns. We had better neighbors & a bit more space to move about in.

During our time in Sucy-en-Brie, when I’d mention that we were going out to eat, a common response was, “Wow, Paris has so many great restaurants.”

“Indeed. They do. But we’re not in Paris. We’re just eating somewhere nearby.”

“What? What’s the difference?”


While we lived close enough to get to Paris on a whim, we did not live in Paris.

The suburbs were pretty nice. We had everything we needed, but we began to outgrow our apartment. Our nicer, quieter neighbors eventually got just as irritating as the obnoxious & loud ones we had before. We wanted to get a dog, but had no yard, only a small balcony up on the 3rd floor.

But any balcony is a great place for having booze & snacks.

We decided it was time to do that thing that grown ups sometimes do. We bought a house.

We ventured out of the suburbs & all the way to the French countryside. To put it in American terms, it’s sort of like we moved to another county. Lower prices. Different scenery & architecture. I had to get a new carte de séjour made, much like one would have to do with their driver’s license in the U.S. when they relocate to a new state or county.

True enough, Paris is close enough that we can get there easily by car or train.

But, this takes us a while. We have to REALLY want to go to Paris. No shit. We once sat in traffic for 3 fucking hours trying to get into the city on a Sunday afternoon.

Some things are consistent no matter where I live in this country. I have plenty of wine, the scent that wafts from the cheese in my kitchen reeks with the stench of a warm pile of sweaty socks. I have great health care. The natives shrug & make a fart sound with their mouths when I ask questions instead of providing a real answer. Everywhere I look around me, it’s as French as French can get.

But, it’s not Paris. That’s a place 50 miles away. A place where I lived 4 years ago. And in so many ways, another planet compared to where I now sit.

Gone are the noisy neighbors that are an expected part of apartment living in a big city. They’ve been replaced by the quiet countryside neighbors who smile, wave & invite us over for a coffee & a chat. The honking horns & smog are miles away. Now it’s all birds, squirrels & blue skies.

We definitely do not live in Paris.

In Paris, squirrels do not come knocking at the front door.

Now, when we’re meeting the locals, they spot me as a foreigner as soon as I open my mouth & reveal my terrible accent. Like anyone would do, they ask me where I’m from.

“I’m American. From Colorado.”

“Eh? Colorado? Where is that?”

“The West,” I say. “The Rocky Mountains.”

“Oh. I have a cousin in San Francisco.”

“I’ve heard San Francisco is very nice. I’ve never been there.”

This is where they look at me like I’ve just barfed up a live toad.

“What? Well… what’s the difference?”

So, like the natives, I shrug & make a fart noise with my mouth. Because I live in France.


  • “Roger” that.


    (In the military of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, and other organizations, the signal quality is reported on two scales; the first is for signal strength, and the second for signal clarity. Both these scales range from one to five, where one is the worst and five is the best. The listening station reports these numbers separated with the word “by”. “Five by five” therefore means a signal that has excellent strength and perfect clarity — the most understandable signal possible.)

  • Sébastien

    You can very well have noisy (and nosy) neighbours in Sucy *points at the wall behind him* and traffic noise *looks by the window* and grumpy neighbours who would, in another dimension, invite you for a coffee but instead give you the finger with the power of their eyes. That part of Sucy just seems more quiet and friendly 🙂

    I’ve noticed squirrels too these last years, but none knocked at my door (yet).

    From the pictures I’d say you’re near the swimming pool 🙂 *spies*

  • Rasmenia

    Hey, Sébastien. 🙂

    I’d forgotten about the nosy neighbors of Sucy! Indeed, we did have a few bored & meddling women who frequently knocked on our door, wanting to know this & wanting to ask about that. They inquired as to what type of objects we threw down the garbage chute. They were far too knowledgeable about our monthly water usage.

    I wish that had been a swimming pool. It’s actually the border of a large square of tarmac. It seemed to be of little use, aside from giving little kids a place to ride their bicycles in a circle. 😀

    There’s a few things I miss about Sucy, though. I can’t deny it.

  • Geographically speaking, I live in Denver when I’m talking to someone from outside the state. If you’re from Colorado, I live in Boulder. If you’re from Northern Colorado I live in Longmont. You live in Paris because there is nothing on the map where your “Point A” is pointing and the city that I have actually heard of that you live closest to is Paris. Well, now that I have seen it on Google, I have heard of Versailles but didn’t know where it was until just now. Ok, according to ME, you live in Versailles.

    As far as population density goes, I would have thought I would still be from Denver or the Rocky Mountains to anyone in the Western Hemisphere. But I guess I live in San Francisco. Welp, gotta run…have a nice day in Versailles!

  • Matt

    This cracked me up. Reminds me of when I was taking German in college, and we had some exchange students visit from West Berlin. They seemed to think the Grand Canyon was “really close’ and that California was just a short trip. They had planned, in one week, to visit Denver, The Grand Canyon, Hollywood and San Francisco. In a car. They were crushed when we pointed that Colorado was almost as big as Germany. They hadn’t look at the map scale very carefully…..

    BTW, I’m insanely jealous that you live in Paris.

  • Rasmenia

    Aw. Those poor West Berliners. I think that’s one of the main sources of confusion for some people on either side of the Atlantic. They don’t really understand just how big – or how small – different places are. I think TV & movies play a part in skewing our perception about things like that, too.

    I think it’s cute, though, when French people tell me what a big country France is. It’s one of the larger countries in Western Europe, that’s for certain, & there is a variety of terrain, much like California, but it’s still a wee small country by my perception.

    I mean, if you can drive from one end of a country to the other, that’s small, right? 😉

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