The reality of living in Paris – Harassment

Au Pairing in Paris

Disclaimer;  I love Paris. It’s a magical place to live and I definitely recommend it to everyone and anyone. This is just one part of life here that I want to chat about. I wrote this months and months ago but never posted it because I didn’t want to freak out my family. But you can’t keep quiet about issues like this, especially if this could help someone out. 

It’s only just dawned on me how different Paris is to to anywhere else I’ve visited or lived. I Skype my friend almost every day and I’ve just realised most days I have a story to tell him about being harassed on the street. An incident on Saturday night was the worst so far and it’s made me want to say something. I don’t know if this is any use to young girls hoping to move to Paris as au pairs or on Erasmus years or anyone visiting the city.

Firstly, I’d consider myself to be pretty street smart, and secondly, I only make a fuss when I’ve been really pissed off. In Cape Town I couldn’t walk down my own street for 5 minutes without getting catcalled from a car or being directly approached by a man on the street asking where I lived or for my number. Bearing in mind this was in winter when I would be wearing jeans and a coat (not that it should make any difference). In England it’s not as bad but I think all girls can say they’ve been wolf-whistled at before and in most cases been harassed in some way.

1796896_10205916317126834_1262181279676042184_oBut Paris is just on another level. On my first night here I was leaving the metro in my suburban town and was approached by a man walking beside me telling me he loved me. Next thing I know I see another guy tell the first man to leave me alone because I was his. He looked like he was holding a gun. I just turned away and walked off as quickly as I could without making out I was shit scared (excuse my French). It could’ve been a fake gun but it could of quite easily been a real gun.

The other week I was walking through a busy area at about 9pm and a homeless man yelled at me and reached for my bag. I screamed and turned away and he carried on and chased me until I literally ran away. I was surrounded by people at not a single person even batted an eyelid.

On Saturday I got off my night bus in my town and had a 10 minute walk to get home; it was about 3am so it was very quiet. After walking for a few minutes I noticed a man that had been on my bus was following me. I’m so freaking naive so assumed he was lost and wanted to ask me for directions; he was about 35 years old, really tall and looked eastern european. After offering to help him he insisted he was fine and wanted to walk me home, still naive about the situation I told him I was fine but thanks for offering. After minutes of ‘no, honestly I’m fine’s’ I was getting a bit annoyed. I didn’t feel unsafe I was just bored and wanted to get home without him following me. He then turned to me and said he’d only leave if I kissed him. That’s when it got weird. I tried walking away, he’d follow. I told him I had a boyfriend waiting for me at home, he still followed. It wasn’t until I got my phone out and pretended to call the police that he ran off in the opposite direction.

I blanked it out for a few hours because I was almost in shock but then looking back it’s so messed up, what a huge creep. I should’ve punched him and actually called the police.

Thank God I left safely but what if he hadn’t left when I’d got my phone out and dialled for the police? What if he’d been armed? What if I hadn’t thought as quickly? Questions that aren’t worth thinking about. Should I be more careful when walking home at night? I never think twice about walking to or from a party on my own because I’ve been doing it since I was 14 and wouldn’t dream of paying for taxis for 10 minute journeys. I’ve been to some of the most dangerous areas in the world and found lovely people who want to help you out, so I see most places with extreme rose tinted glasses. But I’m also not dumb, I know there are dangerous people around and places to avoid. But then again if you tell me not to go somewhere it’s more likely than not that I’ll want to go. Just to prove a point.

I’m bored of being told I shouldn’t be walking the streets alone at night because I’m a woman. Maybe guys should be told not to follow young girls home and harass them.

Mary

x

Awky Maz – ‘get away from her!’

Awky Maz

Another embarrassing moment I just remembered that needs to be documented asap before I permanently block it out!

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 23.03.03We were on a weird wine induced night out with a big group of us girls in Paris. We’d been to a metro party that was basically a massive flop because the police were hot on our heels, ha. Everyone was still in high spirits though and we were deciding if it was worth abandoning the cramped metros and rude organisers (errrrr don’t drink all my alcohol svp) and heading to a club instead. As we were leaving the underground station I heard a girl we’d met that night scream at some guy to leave her alone. ‘Just get off me!’ etc etc. Obviously it wasn’t a pleasant situation and no one seemed to be reacting or helping her out. He was being persistent and wouldn’t back off and go home like she’d repeated over and over. So I stepped in, pushed him aside and reassured him that she was better off without his harassment. No one needs random guys trying to cling on all night so in my eyes I was doing what I hoped any of my friends would do for me.

He actually seemed quite genuine and wanted to make sure she was ok. I told him, ‘Hey randomer, leave us alone, we’re all good without you thank you very much. Go home like she asked, we’re trying to have a good night’. He eventually left. The end, happy days, right?

Nope! Turns out he was the girls boyfriend of like 2 years and they lived together. ERRRRRR FAIL MARY. Not only had I told her boyfriend to leave us alone but before I’d found out who he was I’d gone to girl and vented about what a creep and loser he was.

Until next awkward moment eh

Mary

x

Weekend warriors

Au Pairing in Paris

I’ve had such a fun, busy week. I’m finally catching up with everyone after the Christmas break, spending too much money and eating (and maybe drinking) more than I should. Januarys not so blue!

IMG_0602 I’ve started to notice the crazy houses in our little suburban town. Theres so much dramatic architecture around Paris but even when I just take a 5 minute walk I see some crazy and beautiful houses. House envy on every corner.

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We (Judit, Bethany, Camilla, Yasmin & Susanna) went out on Thursday night to celebrate the end of exams (which I didn’t do because I don’t go to uni but I can’t miss out on the celebrations can I?!) to a club called Le Duplex, right by the Arc De Triomphe. We all had a pretty fun night; the music was mainly pop and house from what I can remember. I have a thing against the techno music that the french love so anywhere that plays music you can actually sing and dance along to is a winner for me. And I find it jokes when they throw in a random ‘Alors on danse’ or other french song and everyone goes crazy. Plus free entrance and not crazy overpriced drinks = happy gals!

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There was a creepy dancer who politely pushed me off his podium then wanted me to touch his abs. Which I wasn’t too excited by. Look at my face for proof.

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I managed to pick up a few copies of Charlie Hebdo as I arrived at Saint Lazare station at 6am as the newsagents were opening. There was already a queue, lots of pompous people giving their opinion of the magazine and a limit of only buying 5. I hope this and the fact that eBay have reportedly disallowed them to be sold stops people making obscene amounts of money from selling them on. I saw a copy go for £100,000!

On Friday night Judit, Bethany, Yasmin and I had a chilled out evening watching ‘In her Shoes’, a cheesy rom com with Cameron Diaz and some other randomers. It’s a decent film but way too emotional for my liking; like why are they trying to upset me, I just wanted to see an easy flick. Don’t get deep with us and kill off characters?!

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I was back in Olympiades again on Saturday morning to run with Judit (see my previous post!). We went shopping with the others in the afternoon in Chatelet. The forum des halles shopping centre is so much bigger than I realised, after only seeing one half of it the other times I’ve been. We probably spent more time trying to find each other than actually shopping. I somehow managed to buy a h&m jacket that I totally needed because you know, having 7 other jackets in Paris and more at home just isn’t enough is it…?

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diets are going well.

Saturday night was my chance to finally see Amrita and catch up. We drank gross wine at Le Perchoir, the cutest rooftop bar in Paris. You get an amazing view of the Sacre Coeur and theres fairy lights, comfy sofas and fires to help you forget that it’s actually like 2 degrees up there. Unluckily for us we had an overly PDA couple going for it on the sofa opposite to us.

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We did the horrible 10 minute walk to La Bellevilloise. We always meet some strange characters on this road and we’re always hating life because it’s the steepest hill in the world. 

Once we actually got there we had a wicked night. Even if we had to deal with even more awful PDA in there as well. When will people learn eh?

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On the metro in the morning I made friends with a guy with the cutest puppy ever! I managed to get a good 10 minutes of cuddles before the owner gave me a can of juice and his business card. Which I accidentally threw away. Ha oops, not the biggest loss.

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I’m now listening to Sia’s album ‘1000 forms of fear’, I’d forgotten how much I love it. And I also want a big cage like the one she uses for the elastic heart video, would be so cool for photos!

I’m excited for next week, I have nothing solid planned but maybe bowling and hopefully get a pizza in town. Praying the forecast of snow is a wrong because I don’t have the energy to deal with cold weather!

Mary x

Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen – 20th September 2014

Au Pairing in Paris

Lounging around in my bed feeling hungover and a bit sorry for myself I decided retail therapy was in order to cheer myself up so I dragged myself to Marche aux Puces; a huge flea market in North Paris, just outside the 18th Arrondissement. I took the metro to Porte de Clignancourt (end of line 4) and followed the signs to ‘Le Puces’. Soon I was deep in streets of stalls selling clothes, antiques, furniture, dodgy fake Nike trainers, African artefacts, phone cases, flags, food, books and everything in between. It’s not just your typical french market, it has every type of stall you can imagine and it’s so so so big.

Porte de Clignancourt is where the red marker is, the purple line is the metro line 4

Porte de Clignancourt is where the red marker is, the purple line is the metro line 4

After a few minutes of nothing really catching my eye I got heckled by a guy behind a stall with crazy dreads piled on his head and surrounded by Jamaican flags. ‘Hey baby, why you na stop at mih stall? Ya nah wanna talk to ya bruder?!’ – obviously I had to go and chat to this crazy Rasta. He was clearly mad but we chatted for almost half an hour; he was raised in Jamaica, had lived in Birmingham, London, a few African countries and now Paris so we actually had a lot in common. He tried to set me up with a few of his sons (he has more than 11 kids apparently. I don’t think he knows the exact number) and told me about his 3 wives. I carried on through the market, spoke to a few other stallholders and heard some amazing stories; it was as if all the interesting people in Paris had gathered to the market. Happy days.

I picked up a few bits, you can totally barter and negotiate prices so I managed to get some bargains (by Parisian terms..)

– Jamaican flag for my wall, €4

– Sunglasses, €4

– Knife pendant choker/necklace, €3 for 2 mini knives and a little elephant charm

– 4 scrunchies, €2
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I’m pretty happy with what I got, I could’ve bought way more if I had the money to spare. There were a few great vintage clothes stalls but I’ve recently been buying more clothes than I need (maybe fashion week this week will change my mind though!).

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You have to be street smart at all times in Paris but especially at this market. You can see pickpockets walking around eyeing up your bag and there are loads of men by the exit trying to flog you mobile phones and dodgy gadgets. I chose to take a clutch as there’s may less risk of someone taking stuff if it’s tucked under my arm. I also didn’t take either of my cameras which I’m gutted about as I saw so many great photo opportunities. I think now that I know my way around a little I’ll be confident enough to take some photos next time without worrying about pickpockets.

IMG_3659Here’s a little idea of what I took with me; my Navigo pass to get around the metro, a small mirror from Primark, headphones, my tablet for music and maps, a tiny purse (I purposely didn’t bring my usual purse with cards in in case I got mugged, lol), keys and my new (old) phone. Cheers Lucinda! I also got given a leaflet about exercise classes in Asnieres Sur Seine (my town) and I’m quite interested. I’m deciding between either Pilates or Zumba; any thoughts anyone??

IMG_3618So yeah that was my morning at the market. It runs every Saturday, Sunday and Monday and I totally recommend it to anyone I know living in Paris at the moment or if you’re just on holiday.

I wore my new Primark dress, €6, baaaargain, Doc Martens in Ivory (fave thing shoes atm) and Primark clutch.

(I’ll include photos from the actual market next time yayay)

Mary x

Markets, Cake & making my way to Paris – 14th – 16th June 2014

Europe

On Saturday I barely left my bed as I felt so ill, I think my travelling was starting to catch up on me. I did eventually manage to leave at 4 in the afternoon to go to some cafes and let Nina get on with her work. That night we went into town and found a great bar to people watch from, the next bar was our chosen spot to watch the England/Italy match. Somehow we were in the perfect spot to see the game with a full room of enthusiastic men behind us and there was a table of English girls in front who needed to go out and smoke every 5 minutes because the game was ‘so stressful’. I decided England aren’t too great at football and they just want to constantly chase the ball; I can confidently say most of the boys at Otjikondo play better than them!

On Sunday I booked my travel to France(!!!) and then went to a vintage market in Mauer Park. I didn’t know the way when leaving the metro station so just followed the hipsters to wherever they went; like magic, 10 minutes later I was there. This place is a huge market; some stalls were just selling second hand clothes and unwanted things from home and others were selling handmade jewellery, badges, sunglasses, dog clothes and lots more. I could’ve walked around for hours as there was so much to hunt through but I knew I couldn’t spend too much money so I went to listen to some of the singers on the grass area next to the market. One singer told the audience how she lives in Cape Town for 4 months of each year and how much she misses it, basically, everyone loves Cape Town.
Next I went into town to catch a bus to see some of the more classic tourist sites. As I’ve been to Berlin before I wasn’t too fussed by the big buildings so just observed from the top deck of the bus… I wrote some postcards and bought a little sew on german flag which I did originally want to put on my jacket but I think I’ll get mum to put it on my camera strap and I’ll add flags from the other countries I’ve been travelling in. In the afternoon I arrived home to a hungry Nina so she took me to her favourite cake shop, Bravko, just down the road. I had a lemon pie whilst Nina had some fruity, crumble thing. We left, I packed and I said my goodbyes. It’s been awesome staying with Nina; we’ve got to know each other so much better, she has the cutest flat, she knows all the best places in Berlin, she prepares the best breakfasts every morning (fruit salad, german bread, smoothies woo) and is generally a fab host. So thank you Nina!
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I rushed to the coach station, arriving there at 6:45, really smug that I managed to get there 15 minutes before the coach was due to leave. I was then informed that I had to stand in a long queue in order to get my boarding pass. As soon as the guy at the counter filled it out (he tod me to CALM DOWN) I grabbed it and ran to my stop. I jumped on the bus with 30 seconds to spare. Luckily I hadn’t started thinking about what I’d of done if I’d missed it.
As I write this I’m sitting at the back of a coach that’s travelled from Berlin, through Belgium and we’re due to arrive in Paris any minute 😀 I have a few hours before I’ll then catch the train to Saintes. I’ll be staying with my sister, Georgie who’s living and working in Royan at the moment. I know she’ll rub it in my face that she’s more tanned than and she’ll probably complain that I haven’t bought her any presents but I’m still excited to see her after nearly 5 months apart!
Mary x