Kate Betts's new memoir, My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine, is about her time in Paris in the late 1980s learning the fashion ropes at Women's Wear Daily and untangling the social codes of the Paris elite.
From her Q & A with Tim Murphy at Newsday:
What do you remember most vividly from your first years in Paris?--Marshal Zeringue
Struggling to fit in and a feeling of isolation. I had no idea how hard it would be to learn all the social codes and break into that tight French circle. But I was very determined to have French friends and not fall into the American expat group that I worked with. Besides that, I'd say I remember the smell of urine in the Metro. Paris was not as pristine then as it is now. Also, I lived with a French family with two kids and the mother always had great smells in her kitchen -- chocolate cake, bread, omelets, huge informal dinner parties with a couscous or a coq au vin.
Americans often think the French are mean. What do you say to that?
The French are so wedded to their own sense of civilization. They have high standards for themselves that nobody can really compete with. Americans are far more relaxed and easygoing. That French rigor comes across as nasty but really it's a deeply entrenched thing for them. Their manners, every gesture, the way they raise their kids, eat. Once you break through that barrier, they are actually...[read on]