Paris vs. Los Angeles

Harold at the Château de Vincennes on the east side of Paris.
Harold at the Château de Vincennes on the east side of Paris.

Over the holidays I left the warmth of sunny LA to visit mon homme, Harold in Paris and decided to reveal my comparative observations between these two great cities. Also, I can’t think of anything else to blog about this week.

Weather – I don’t even know why I am bothering to comment on this, as LA is the obvious winner. Visiting France in the winter didn’t help Paris here, but come on, no matter what the season, not many cities are going to beat LA when it comes to our average weather year round, which is quite spectacular.

Public Transportation – As a frequent rider of LA’s Metro system, I feel qualified to declare Paris the winner here. The City of Lights boasts many more trains per hour (like one train every 5 minutes) and is much more accessible than LA’s Metro system. You can get within a few blocks of just about anywhere you need to go. The one drawback is that it can be quite crowded, even during off peak hours.

Cost of Living – LA may not be the cheapest big city, but it sure beats Paris when it comes to housing and food values. Harold’s apartment is a good example. His place is smaller than mine, in a more suburban area, lacks an oven, and is still more expensive than my conveniently located and totally happening Silver Lake pad. Dining out in Paris is expensive too and even fast food is pricey. Combine that with the unfavorable Dollar to Euro conversion and you will find yourself eating at home a lot. In LA, you have endless options for cheap eats and drinks if you want to go out. Not so in Paris. Even grocery shopping is more expensive, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables.

Lobster Bisque at Le Train Bleu
Lobster Bisque at le Train Bleu

Food Quality – While this is not specific to LA and is probably more of a U.S. issue, France takes the prize when it comes to food quality. Even pre-packaged and frozen food is more natural and contains far fewer additives in France than in the U.S. The same common brands of wheat bread and yogurt that, in the U.S., have high fructose corn syrup, do not contain the ingredient in France. When I go grocery shopping in the U.S., I really have to inspect labels and it is an effort to choose healthy pre-packaged products, but in France, healthy seemed to be the default. Perhaps this is why food is more expensive in France? You get what you pay for.

Clean Up After Your Pet – Angelenos win this round. From what I witnessed, Parisians are quite OK letting their dogs take giant dumps right in the middle of the sidewalk in front of people and then walking away. Harold and I witnessed his neighbor kick her dog’s poop into oncoming traffic. If you want to keep your shoes clean, you really have to be vigilant and pay close attention to the sidewalk when you go for a walk in Paris. Not quite the romantic Parisian stroll I previously imagined.

Marijuana – Allow me to preface this by saying that I am only making an observation here and am in no way incriminating myself as a drug buyer or user. Anyway, thanks to LA’s convoluted medical marijuana regulations and also our proximity to key suppliers like Mexico and Humboldt County, if you want to find some pot in LA, it ain’t hard. In Paris, from what the locals say, it’s quite an ordeal to find marijuana and when you do finally make a connection, the quality is sub par.

Traffic – This one is a tie. Harold and I spent 2 hours in his car trying to get from the south side of Paris to the east side one night. It was all so LA.

Culture – Culture can be defined in many ways and takes many forms. I do not think that LA lacks culture, it’s just that Paris seems to have a more defined culture and an overwhelming abundance of it. LA is simply a much newer city and could never beat Paris when it comes to museums, architecture, historical artifacts, etc. Even the graffiti culture seemed to operate on a higher level. I’m not saying one culture is better than the other. I just think Paris has had a lot more time to cultivate and refine their particular brand.

Fashion – Sorry, LA, but Paris takes this one too. Harold lives directly above an RER stop and a couple of blocks from the Metro. I would stand at his window and watch scores of people walk by every morning on their way to work or wherever. There is definitely a distinct effort, especially with men, to be fashion forward. Everyone seemed so well tailored, even just grocery shopping.      

Other Random Observations – Americans may think the French eat cheese all day and never get fat but, in France, cheese is often served after the main course, so you end up eating a lot less of it.  I found it strange that fried eggs are a common pizza topping in France. I also noticed that the vegan movement appeared to be non-existent, “extra light cream” is quite thick and heavy, lunch is often the heaviest meal of the day, people type “hu hu” instead of “ha ha,” and the French version of “yeah” sounds like “way” and they say it a lot.

I am certainly not the definitive source on all things LA or Paris, these are just observations and opinions based on my personal experience. If given the choice to live in LA or Paris, I would definitely choose LA, so it’s a good thing I already live in the best city in the world. I rule.

16 thoughts on “Paris vs. Los Angeles”

  1. Wow — I’m surprised about the dog poop thing. Especially given the fact that some of the people on my street seem to think it’s a decorative item.

  2. Ha ha, Kevin. My neighborhood is full of dog walkers and while I have seen a pile here or there on the grass, I have never seen anything like the sidewalk landmines that littered nearly every sidewalk I encountered in Paris. It was quite annoying!

  3. You forgot to mention that in LA we are much better pooper scoopers. I don’t remember ever seeing so many puppy land mines in one place as I did along our nightly walks along the Qaui de Grennelle. Having a 10 year old that doesn’t watch where he steps didn’t help and I spent most of my time steering him around the puppy landmines than enjoying the the light show on La Tour Effiel. LA Wins on pooper scooping.

    Paris, during Christmas is a magical place to be, or so I have heard. Welcome back.

  4. Frazgo, It was quite a annoyance indeed. Some of the piles were so huge, it just blew my mind that people would just leave it there like that, on the same sidewalk they have to walk on every day.

  5. Well, it’s usually not this cold in Paris at this time of year – this year it’s just freakishly cold everywhere in Europe. Even in normally wet Dublin. So much so that a friend of mine tweeted “Rain, you’re forgiven so please please come back”.

    Parisians sure use “ouai” instead of “oui” to say their yeahs, and I think I like that because it’s rather informal. ;)

  6. Ps: did you do any observation on healthcare aspect? Most French folks can nearly set up a whole pharmacy in their own homes! (Yeah, they sure fill up their med cabinet but then again most of these related expenses are covered by their healthcare program)

    The other thing is the amount of specialist shops in Paris. They don’t often do convenient shop-for-everything-under-one-roof system, but I like it that you do foster some sort of relationship with the different merchants you deal with on regular basis – the baker, the butcher, the florist etc.

  7. Lil, Harold is very anti-medication so he didn’t have anything in his medicine cabinet. However, I was totally digging the specialty shops and while they may not be as convenient, they are much nicer to look at than huge Costco sized warehouse buildings, that is for sure.

  8. Lil, it is pretty easy to set a pharmacy for sure. Every rare time I go to one, I can see people from 60+ buying like two grocery store bags of meds. There’s even a pharmacy with little shopping carts available. That’s why it costs so much to the society (we’re going to hit -30 billion euros in 2010) but that’s another topic.

    For the little shops well it’s great because it makes people walk a lot :)

    I choose LA over Paris though.

  9. Sidewalk Culture–one of my favorite city comparison categories. Paris wins. I love all those cafes with the rattan chairs and the espresso drinking smokers lined up watching the sidewalk life pass by. LA has some pockets of sidewalk culture but nothing like Paris.

    Freak factor: We win.

  10. Maybe it was the weather, but I didn’t see many people on bikes. Not more than what I would see in my neighborhood in LA anyway. I did however see quite a few racks of those unused public bikes. Despite the freezing cold, I *did* see tons of brave people on scooters and motorcycles.

  11. One thing Paris has that LA doesn’t is a poop patrol. Early every morning there are men and trucks out…the trucks spraying the sidewalks and curbs with water, the men sweeping the stuff into the gutter…(with specially selected brooms*) so mosts streets AND sidewalks are cleaned…very much unlike LA.
    * The street sweepers had used a variety of brooms some better, some worse…so of course they did a study and found out the design of the old ‘witch’ type broom worked the best. To keep them from becoming collectibles or taken for use at home, they’ve made them in some very bright color and they’re made from a very durable material (unlike the originals which had a thick branch for the handle and smaller long branches attached so the broom is circular.
    The govt. is trying to get people to control their animals better but there are a factors against it including the ingrained habit of resisting any law/rule which inconveniences them personally, and which represents a change from what they could legally do before.

    That said, I’m not that big a fan of Paris except for a few cultural things. When in France I head to the south (near the Pyrenees) where dogs grow up knowing where to go (and where not to) and only the tourists have irritating animals.
    I went to Paris one New Years and I could find ripe avocados at a corner market cheaper than I could buy them in LA before I left. I shop for produce at Farmers Markets (when in rural areas) which makes food prices much lower, ditto local cheeses and wine sold in bulk (en vrac).Great table wines (what California used to produce at a reasonable price), you bring your own container and they fill it from a cask.
    Verdel, if you’re thinking of going back, I completely recommend (and my only relationship with them is as a satisfied customer) Air Tahiti Nui.
    They’re not well known but having flown 5 other carriers to London and Paris, They’re tops, bar none. They have flights from Tahiti to LA to Paris and back, the cabin crew is primarily Tahitian, all speak several languages and the most courteous service I’ve ever had….food is better than any other line (I’ve only flown to Europe), they fly Airbus so there’s more overhead storage space…and….wonder of wonders….they still allow 2 checked bags per person…yes, TWO. One carryon plus a personal item in the cabin. They fly direct (another real plus) and the seating is 2-4-2.
    I’ve already booked my next trip, leave Apr 2, return Apr 30th…they have a special sale through 15th Jan–one person flies for #971 all in, second person flies for taxes and fees ($343.70) so 2 people round trip from under US$1314.20. (flights must be completed by April 30th).

    I’m curious–how did you fly, and how was the flight–and check-in at LAX?

  12. Thanks, Gabriele! I did fly Air Tahiti Nui and check in from LAX was a breeze. The flight was just fine, maybe not quite as comfortable as when I flew Air France or Thai Air, but it was definitely worth it to save the extra cash on the ticket.

  13. In my experience, the French type jeje instead of haha. The weather sucks, especially for a Southern Californian. And the rest seems true too. Except for: LA has so many dining options. Try a burrito in Paris and you’ll want to vomit afterwards. What about Thai? What about Ethiopian? Paris can’t compare in terms of quality/price. LA wins! And another thing, did you ever notice the subway in LA has basically no advertisements compared to Paris’ wall to wall to ceiling to floor ads.

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