I may be slowly turning into a Francophile, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Yes, I know, I’ve hated France and everything about it for as long as I remember, but luckily we always have a chance to change our opinions.
I’ve been to France twice this year, once in Normandy in July, and now in Paris. And I have to admit I don’t know why I hated this country for so long. Normandy was, as described, a very nice place, and now it turns out Paris has its virtues as well.
I admittedly spent only three days in Paris, but I did notice quite a few things very different from London. Some of them are good things, some are, well, not that good. But the thing is, London has quite a lot to learn from the metropolis only two hours and fifteen minutes away.
So here’s a little comparison of the two cities, but bear in mind that I’ve lived in London for years and been to Paris for a few days. Nevertheless, here it goes.
Good things about Paris:
- 1. Public transport
Paris has the second busiest public transport networks in Europe (the first being Moscow). London is far-far away. However, they seem to manage it much better than their immediate northern neighbours—i.e. us.
- The Métro and trains’ (RER) network is much more extensive than London’s. Both Métro and RER lines go pretty much everywhere in Grand Paris and, they’re much faster than London’s tube and National Rail trains.
- On the other hand, public transport costs less in Paris than in London. Zones 1-2 day ticket is €6.30, and Zones 1-3 €8.40 (in comparison, in London, Zones 1-2 day ticket is £8 and Zones 1-3 £10).
- There’s mobile coverage in the entire Paris underground network. There isn’t a single spot, no matter how deep you are, where you can’t get coverage. In London, you have pretty much no coverage (well, you do somewhere between Temple and Tower Hill, but that’s it). This is something London has a lot to learn.
- Two-storey trains. A highlight of Paris’ public transportation—trains that have two storeys. You can accommodate twice as many people in two-storey trains than in single-storey trains. Which brings me to my next point:
- Long, very, very, very long trains. Urban and suburban trains that serve the entire Grand Paris accommodate probably 5-7 times more people than the trains that serve Greater London.
- Intervals. In addition to two-storey and long trains, the intervals in Paris are more than reasonable. You can always walk in a train station and get the next train to wherever in the next ten minutes. In London, you sometimes have to wait 30 minutes, if not more.
- Trains and Métro are on time. There are no idiotic “signal failures” or any of this bullshit we get here. You get on the train, and you get where you want to go quick and easy. Even the older trains move fast and they’re reliable.
- No idiotic “health and safety rules”. The door switch is released before the train actually stops (vs London, where the train has to stand at the platform for at least 20 seconds to open the bloody doors). You can roll down train and Métro windows and actually get air and a nice breeze, vs, London’s half-arse windows in trains and no windows in Tube. And imagine, London, no one falls out of the windows in Paris, and if they do, it’s their own fault.
- 2. Public life
- Everyone smokes. And I do mean everyone. Moreover, smokers are not treated like rabid retards. Yes, smoking indoors (i.e. in cafes, restaurants etc) is banned, but many cafes have put rows of tables outside to accommodate smokers. And many cafes have proper terraces with roofs to accommodate smokers that don’t want to sit in the rain. It’s as humane as it gets in today’s world, but only in a few countries you can see they actually make the effort!
- No congestion charge. Yes, Paris is rather congested, but nevertheless, the socialist mayor of Paris hasn’t yet adopted the “brilliant” idea of Ken Livingstone and everyone can drive in Paris for free. Parking charges can be rather expensive, but that is about choice—you can park in the city or farther away. But Paris is, despite being a busy city, drivable, and there are no idiotic charges.
- Rubbish bins. They’re everywhere. There’s no idiotic and irrational fear of bombs in rubbish bins, because, surprise-surprise, London, THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN. Well, all right, it may happen, but it usually doesn’t, and there’s no reason to be constantly afraid of it 24/7/365. Shit happens anyway, whether you provide bins or not.
- Benches and chairs in all parks. For free. A bench under almost every tree, and elsewhere too. And hundreds of chairs one can move to wherever one wants, and sit on them for free. Doesn’t happen in London (nor the entire UK really). I think in Hyde Park a reclining chair costs £7 a day or something.
- 3. Things of pleasure
- Kronenbourg 1664 beer. It’s still much better in France that it’s here. Partly because it’s 5.5% in France and only 5.0% here, but mainly because it’s being fucked with before it reaches the UK.
- Galuoises cigarettes. Probably the best cigarettes in the civilised world (note how I said civilised, Cuban ones are still better).
Good things about London:
- Public life
- Cleanliness. There are millions of rubbish bins in Paris, and there is almost none in London, but London is still thousands of times cleaner. In London I can come home from outside, walk around in my shoes, and leave no trace. In Paris it’s just horrid amounts of shit everywhere. Which probably means that Brits care about their surroundings a lot more than the French.
- Cleanliness. There’s almost no graffiti in London. As pointed out before, Brits care about their surroundings a lot more than the French, so they don’t engage in defacing buildings, fences, streets, tube stations or trains. Paris is just unbelievably filthy, and it seems normal to either paint or scratch all one’s thoughts on walls, train doors or why not windows.
- No Gypsies. That is one thing I adore London for over Paris. In the French capital, there are literally thousands of Romanian Gypsies engaging in all sorts of semi-legal and illegal activities. The worst are the children—they enter trains in groups, run around, create a fuzz and I’m sure many people discover later they’ve “lost” some of their belongings. They’re a real pain. Thank you, EU, for accepting Romania into your loving bosom.
- Work culture. It’s a common urban legend that the French don’t like to work. Well, the thing is, it’s not an urban legend at all—they really don’t. I am not saying that the Brits are exceptionally hardworking, but the French are even worse. In the Eiffel Tower, for example, they closed a cashier’s desk (on the 2nd level, where you can buy tickets for the top) just like that when tens of people were queuing, and didn’t offer any explanation either. Must have felt great for the people who had queued for hours and had the desk closed right in front of their noses. And yes, people were led to the upper level to a ticket machine, but it only emerged for me after about an hour of queuing that the machine that was supposed to accept cards and cash, only accepted coins. Try finding €10.40 in coins then.
- Police. Not that I have had any encounters with police for years, but the appearance says a lot. In the UK, the police are and behave extremely politely. They are your friends until you do something wrong. In France, they scare you. They look overly cocky, they walk around like they own the entire country, and they don’t appear friendly at all. It’s like if it were written on their foreheads, “Don’t talk to me or you’ll be thrown in Bastille.”
- 2. Things of pleasure
- The price of beer. In London bars and pubs, you can get a pint (0.568 litres for continentals) of lager for everything from £3 to £4. In Paris, the cheapest 0.5 litre beer I saw cost €7.5. The most expensive one was a whopping €12. WTF, gentlemen?
Ah yes, I will be posting photos of Paris as soon as I have time.