“La France sans Paris, c’est comme un gigot sans moutarde”

In this blog post, which is dedicated to a cultural aspect, I explain why Paris enjoys a very high status throughout France and how, as time went by, I was able to understand the reasons for its status.

Paris is known worldwide, on the one hand as the capital of France and on the other hand because of the many monuments, so it is not surprising that most French people are very proud of this city. Moreover, there have been a few situations which have shown me that Paris has a high status in French society, which I could not compare with any other city in Switzerland.

During one of my first conversations with my roommate, who is originally from Nancy, I explained to him that I could have done an exchange semester in other French cities, but I chose Paris. He laughed and asked if there were really people who would spend a semester in other French cities, because to him it was clear that you would go to Paris. Furthermore, there are 2 high schools in Paris, which are known to all French people, no matter which region you come from. These are the Lycée Henri IV (where Emmanuel Macron graduated from high school) and the Lycée Louis Le Grand. So, these lycées are for example well known to my French fellow students from Grenoble or Rennes, although there are many more lycées in France.

Another point that underlines the importance of Paris is the French train network. In fact, you can go from Paris to really any place in France or even in Europe. However, if you live in a smaller town, you often must go to Paris first and start your journey from there, even if this frequently means making a big roundabout detour. A friend of mine who lives in Paris explained to me that her relatives, who live a bit further away from Paris, if they want to travel by train they usually spend up to a day more in travel time because they have to come to Paris first. Also the cell phone network outside of Paris is relatively bad, but I was told that many people come to Paris to work and can use the cell phone network in Paris and otherwise use the Wifi in the train or at home.

These points mentioned are my experiences, which I have made so far and showed me impressively that Paris has a very high value in the French society. Of course, there are some better known cities in Switzerland, such as Bern, Zurich or Geneva, but I don’t know any person in Switzerland who would insist that everything is best in this city. So we have many high schools in Switzerland, but I don’t know anyone who could tell me the best public high schools. Also the train and telephone network in Switzerland is so good from almost every place that you can at least surf the internet a little bit or send Whatsapp messages.

While discussing with my French friends and my Erasmus friends here in Paris as well as experiencing the French culture more and more, I have gained insight into why the city of Paris is so important in France. Because even when comparing the politics, it is noticeable that the French president has a lot of power, for example he can determine new measures. Since the French president is in Paris, the power for the whole country with about 70 million inhabitants comes from Paris. This is of course not comparable to Switzerland, where politics is federalist. Since there are a lot of jobs in Paris, it also makes sense that there are many connections which lead to Paris. Paris is well known for its education in France, and this is not without reason, because in Paris with 2 million inhabitants there are more than 50 higher education institutions. Another thing I noticed during my time here is that Paris has a lot to offer. From baroque buildings, to museums, exhibitions, theaters and much more. After my first incomprehension why all French people are very excited about Paris, I can now understand this better and I think that the attitude of being very proud of something in one’s own country generates a great connection between the inhabitants.

* “France without Paris is like a leg of lamb without mustard.”  Pierre Perret is a well-known French singer-songwriter.

Rahel Luder

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