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Paris Is Still Paris (Duh)

In December 2015 I flew to Lyon for almost a week to see my boyfriend, Arnaud. One afternoon in the city centre I pointed out some French flags hanging from apartment windows, and he said they had only been there since the Paris attacks in November. We had our bags checked when entering a mall or a cinema, and saw some soldiers patrolling the Christmas market and other busy places. A year later at the 2016 Christmas market, just after the Berlin truck attack, there were also cars parked at all the entrances to the market area to stop any vehicles from getting in. While I spent quite a lot of time in France last year, I have never actually lived there or in any central place in Europe. So, I wanted to hear Arnaud’s thoughts about life in France after the attacks of 2015 and 2016.

Lyon, December 2015

 

How have the attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe affected people’s everyday life in France?

“There are many more safety controls, and you can see soldiers at busy places more often than before. But honestly, it hasn’t shocked young people, in particular – on the contrary. Many people went on big marches after the attacks, marches with lots and lots of people, to show that they were not afraid. One symbol of France is the rooster, and they say that the rooster is French because it’s the only animal that sings even if it’s walking in manure. It’s a saying that qualifies French people (laughs) – I think you’ve noticed that French people are very proud to be French…though it might be a stereotype as well that French people are arrogant and that we really love our country.”

How do you personally feel about going to some big events, walking on busy streets and so on? What would you say to people who are scared to travel?

“I think about it and I laugh – “not afraid”. If I die, I die, but I won’t stop living just because some people want to impose their rules. Besides, in Europe we are lucky to live in politically stable countries. As for travelling, you shouldn’t be afraid. Attacks are rare, and there are so many nice places to visit in Europe.”

Paris, May 2016

 

Many people are concerned about the increase of racism and religious discrimination – have you noticed this in any way?

“Yes. During the electoral campaigns last fall, the main topics of discussion were ethnicity, the state of emergency, immigration…these were at the heart of the debates. There was an election just after Charlie Hebdo, and Marine le Pen did very well in this election. In 2014 le Pen’s party won the European election in France…Some people feel endangered, and they want to maintain their safety.”

What can people do in their everyday lives to fight terrorism?

“By living, enjoying life, and being more tolerant”.

Nice, October 2016

 

Of course many people in France are still very deeply affected by the attacks on a personal level, and also a mere passer-by is easily moved by the signs of remembrance near the attack sites. As to the new safety measures, however, as a visitor I didn’t find they really affected the atmosphere of any big city I visited – Lyon, Nice, or Paris. Perhaps on the one hand they are a reminder of a threat, but on the other hand they increase the feeling of being safe and guarded. And while someone can deliberately paint a menacing picture by excessive talk about soldiers and safety controls, in reality they are overshadowed by the beauty and vibrancy of cities like Lyon, Nice, Paris, or any other spirited French city.

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