The 5 Most Important Differences Between Paris and New York

Paris New York City
by Cody Delistraty Dec 18, 2013

The Paris versus New York debate ever rages on, and below-the-belt remarks are tossed like grenades from both sides of the Atlantic.

There’s already a swishy website that compares the two great cities using cutesy, minimalist drawings. Take, for instance, one picture that shows the varied coffee preferences between the two metropolises. On the New York side there’s a tall Starbucks cup, while on the Paris side there’s a tiny espresso.

Yet, observing that Americans prefer Starbucks to espresso, thicker beards to mustaches, and pastrami to patisserie may be charming and all, but it’s not much help if you’re deciding between where to travel, work, or live. The real differences between these cities are about quality of life and the way people view their relationship to both others and the world.

1. The customer is always wrong

Don’t even try to get quick restaurant service, obtain a visa, return an item of clothing, or go into any service industry and think you’re somehow the boss just because you’re paying. Nothing tests your patience quite like running errands in Paris.

Score: New York City.
NYC 1 – Paris 0.

2. Perception of wealth

There are still, of course, wealthy people in both cities, but just look at how former-President Nicolas Sarkozy slips off his Piaget watch at rallies and how JoeyStarr, the most successful rapper in French history, still lives in the ghetto suburban area in which he grew up.

Come to New York, though, and people aren’t only looking to get wealthy, they’re idolizing those who already are. In Paris, wealth is hidden, discreet — in New York it’s for show. Who’s to say which is better?

Score: Tie.
NYC 2 – Paris 1.

3. Parks

If you live near Central Park or Prospect Park you have it made, but live nearly anywhere else in the city and your options fade quicker than you do on Thirsty Thursdays. In Paris, you’re bound to bump into green space wherever you go. In New York, you have to trek way uptown to Columbia’s tiny campus to see a decent patch of grass outside of Central Park.

Score: Paris.
NYC 2 – Paris 2.

4. What’s a weekend?

Most vacation days of anywhere in the world, lunch breaks that usually last 2 hours, a 35-hour workweek, and mandatory retirement at 62 are facts of French life. Nothing sums up the pace of New York like the words, “I’ll take that to go.” In New York life, to even exist in the unbelievably pricey city is a feat itself. So, yeah, New York weekends are unfortunately meant for more working.

Score: Paris.
NYC 2 – Paris 3.

5. The meaning of life

If anyone knows how to live in both Paris and New York, it’s New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, who penned Paris to the Moon about living in Paris with his family. In another one of his books, Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York, Gopnik writes,

[I was] compelled toward [New York] almost feverishly — deliriously if you like — as the place you needed to be in order to stake a claim to being at all. This feeling has never left me.

He writes this as an admission that New York is his home, and it’s an attempt to paint New York in a positive light, as a place one always comes back to. Yet this constant need to self-actualize, to prove that you’re someone based on your address, your career, your travels, where you go to dinner, if you take the subway or a town car, even to feel like you must “stake a claim at being at all,” strikes a wrong chord.

There are loads of necessary social habits in Paris, like dress and small talk and all that, but its biggest attribute is that it’s not at the center of the world — not like New York — and its pace is slower, its culture deeper, and its expectations are not to stake a claim at living, but to live as you wish. Whether that’s a good thing is entirely up to you.

Score: Tie.
NYC 3 – Paris 4.

Is Paris indeed the better city?

* This post was originally published at Thought Catalog and is reprinted here with permission.

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