As polarized as America’s political parties and positions seem to be today, it’s refreshing to see Americans in Paris, especially when people, who would otherwise be strangers in the states, run into each other in Paris.
This happy accident usually occurs on a bridge or near a landmark like Notre Dame, when one couple hears another couple speaking American English. One party asks if the other would take a photo of them together. Of course. And the other party reciprocates. Where are you guys from? Or, where are y’all from? is the next step in the conversation.
Then it’s comparing notes about museums and monuments to see (or skip) and inside information (and sometimes hard-learned lessons) to share about currency exchange, metro passes, tours, and places to eat that won’t bust the budget.
Then the Americans say goodbye, will each other safe travels, and go on their way, intoxicated and breathless, giddy in awe and wonder at everything Paris has to offer.
In the last 11 months that I’ve lived here, I’ve heard a hundred of these conversations if I’ve heard one. I stand silently to one side, scarf and beret on tight, coat collar turned up high against the cold, looking very French, some have said. But feeling very American, truth be told, and very proud.
For as loud as Americans can be in the restaurants, and as badly as they can dress on the street, we are still an open, warm, and generous and generally decent group of people.
And when we’re removed from the Noise of Opinion and Hyperbole, we have a lot more in common than we imagine.
Something to remember as headlines and newscasts try to make us think otherwise.