The Redefinition of Success / by Hannah Harley


Paris is a lovely city as I'm sure you've figure out from my many doting blog posts. While it remains of the most magnificent cities on earth, there are a lot of things in Paris that frustrate me. It's a product of the cultural differences. The fact that I was raised in American means that I have an entirely different way of thinking than my French compatriots. photo 1

Above: a very poor quality photo of a darkroom print of the Eiffel Tower, Feb 2014

My roommate and I were talking one night about the difficulties we've faced in Paris. One of the hardest things we've had to do is redefine what "success" is. Things that are simple or easy in the States can become quite complicated and frustrating in a different culture. The whole different language can further complicate these simple things.

To think -- neither one of us knew how to say 'how are you' or 'can we have the check please' or 'what time is it' or 'help me' when we first arrived!

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Take the task of getting a coffee. For example purposes, pretend it's Starbucks. (But don't actually go to Starbucks if you're in Paris...) What do I want? How do you say "Chai" in French? Did he ask me if I wanted soy milk with that? Opps, I think I accidentally ordered a large. Just go with it. "Quatre euros quatre vingt sept".... What does that translate to? Alright... Time to figure out the money. Oh can I pay in exact change?!? Wait, did he just ask how to spell my name? Oh, I guess not. He's looking at me strangely. Just pay. Where do I get my coffee? Oh, there! That's mine, right? Yeah, the barista is nodding. Okay, cool. Take a sip -- that's not what I thought I ordered. Must've mispronounced 'Chai'. Oh well. I paid in exact change. WHAT A SUCCESS!

This task of getting a small Chai latte, something all too basic in the States has become a difficult process. It's awkward trying to figure out the customs and the city. Sometimes, you just have to accept that paying in exact change is really successful. You should be proud that you used that 2 cent piece. That is not an easy piece to get rid of.

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Success is relative. Maybe it's using the right pronoun when talking about your baguette or maybe it's knowing the best place on the Seine to picnic with friends. Or maybe it's knowing how to spot the pickpockets. Maybe it's taking a new route to school or navigating to a place you haven't yet been -- without the assistance of Google Maps. Success could be finding a place to buy sheets or college ruled notebooks Sometimes, success is remembering your zipcode or the quickest entrance to a particular museum or figuring out where to buy batteries. Maybe it's signing a legal document that's entirely in French or knowing the difference between good bread and bad bread.

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Above: Tuileries on a rainy fall day

So here's to redefining success and blundering my way through the plethora of awkward cultural differences. Rejoice in the little victories.

photo 2Side note - if you'd like to support my adventures in Paris, you'll elidgible for prints, canvases, calendars and more!!! Please head to my Indiegogo campaign for more information! :) Link below!


As always, thanks for reading. Happy to share this wild journey with you all