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JeanneB Apr 27th, 2008 04:29 AM

Down & Out in Paris (Washington Post)

This is an op-ed submitted by an American ex-pat in Paris. (At the end you discover she's the author of "Le Divorce".) Seems the weak dollar is playing havoc with their comfortable lifestyle.

It's fairly interesting, but there's a somewhat haughty demeanor that comes through and irritates the reader. For instance, no more Business Class for jaunts to San Francisco. :'( Her "desperate" search for flights is what we do here on Fodors every day.

Then comes her snarky attitude toward those who don't sympathize over her plight. I imagine they're thinking something like "C'est la vie".

esm Apr 27th, 2008 05:32 AM

Yikes; maybe she intended to sound flip and funny but she comes across as arrogant. She'll be "reduced to choucroute and cassoulet" and can't fly business but wants sympathy?

Dukey Apr 27th, 2008 05:34 AM much for being from "the most powerful nation on Earth."

jdraper Apr 27th, 2008 05:36 AM

Oh the poor little dear, having to give up business class, one meal out per week and forced to fly tourist class with the rest of us rabble. I gave up many of these things here in the States as well. I understand the message that was trying to be conveyed but have no sympathy as this writer appears to be spoiled and arrogant.

emily71 Apr 27th, 2008 05:49 AM

Posted the same article in the Lounge forum as I thought it was a satirical piece at first.

I think the premise is that the dollar is tanking versus the euro and expats who are paid in dollars are having a rough time of it.

However, moaning about cutting back on spending $200/month in restaurants and NOT flying business class just make her seem like the stereotypical expat elite.

I'd also wager that her Parisian countrymen could teach her how to live in Paris for less..I doubt all buy folie gras, and buy $7 croissants. Even as tourists, my family didn't that.

I think she needs to take a look at the Fodors board for some cheaper Parisian ideas!

ira Apr 27th, 2008 05:58 AM

Poor Dear,

"Who cared, when the euro was 80 cents"?

That was 9 years ago!

"...a half-dozen of their eagerly anticipated croissants may cost them $50".

Five E for a croissant? Where?

" My husband, a professor of medicine, is retired from the University of California and works on world health issues for organizations based in Paris".

Thereby making at least his full salary, with a reduced income tax burden, plus his Social Security.

"We're still in Paris. It could be worse".

The only item in the whole letter worth noting.


JeanneB Apr 27th, 2008 06:44 AM


<i>...moaning about cutting back on spending $200/month in restaurants...</i>

She's talking about $200 <i> a week</i>...she cites <i>$800</i> a month! Granted, she never says how many people this fed. But her children are grown, so I assume it's the two of them.

Gad! I just read it again and perhaps the pettiest line is: &quot;'And stand up at the counter,' someone reminds us. 'Two euros cheaper than sitting down.' But of course, that misses the point of being in a cafe, hanging out, people-watching, writing your novel. . . .&quot;.

In other words: no point to being in Paris if you can't play the cool, detached, American ex-pat writing with disdain about the uncouth countrymen one left behind! Countrymen whose lack of sympathy is attributed to an American inferiority complex! (Hey, I think maybe she <i>does</i> post here!)

walkinaround Apr 27th, 2008 07:00 AM

i agree, this piece is annoying, not witty, not insightful, not interesting, not clever. hard to imagine she is a novelist.

Zerlina Apr 27th, 2008 07:22 AM

OK, let's do the math here...

She's saving $200. a week by cutting out one restaurant meal. So how often does she still eat out?
Once a week? Twice a week? Three times?

If once, she's spending $800. a month on restaurant meals. Twice, it's $1600. Three times, it's $2400. a month.

Oh, the poor, poor dear! I suggest we take up a collection for her.

tod Apr 27th, 2008 07:30 AM

Don't know if anyone else caught a news report on TV interviewing a waiter at a restaurant on the Champs Elysees - he says people are studying the menu and asking questions - taking their time ordering. Not as before when they simply picked out the item they fancied without a second glance at the prices.

JeanneB Apr 27th, 2008 07:44 AM

<i>I suggest we take up a collection for her</i>

OK. I'll pitch in a copy of Sandra Gustafson's &quot;Cheap Eats in Paris&quot;.

On second thought, I'm also on a tight budget. I'll just contribute a note telling her to buy the book...and read Fodor's!

Grcxx3 Apr 27th, 2008 07:48 AM

The little pizza place near our house used to deliver a large cheese pizza for 5 Azeri manat (almost $6), so I used to order 2 (for 10 manat) and would use the &quot;extra&quot; for lunches/snacks for the kids.

But the prices have gone up so much the past few months (and the exchange rate has gotten worse as well), that a large cheese pizza is now 9 manat (over $10) I no longer order 2. Of course, the manager doesn't understand the change in my ordering &quot;behavior.&quot; I had to explain that getting 2 large pizzas for 10 manat was worth it to me.......paying 19 manat is NOT.

Christina Apr 28th, 2008 09:40 AM

That's my local paper, so I read that article and was rather annoyed by it, also. Coincidentally, I just finished one of her books, L'Affaire. I liked Le Divorce (until the end which got a little silly), did not like the next one. L'Affaire was not a great book, but in the middle. Her books exhibit a kind of archness, also, about Americans versus French and some French customs/attitudes/culture. She's she got something up her you-know-what. I'm not saying some of it is true, but too much is very smug and kind of in-jokes.

The only thing in her article I agreed with was that I don't want to stand at a counter to drink coffee, either, it does miss the point of being in a cafe in Paris. If I just wanted to stand up and belt down coffee, I'd probably just make it in the place I was staying. However, the writing my novel remark about the cafe, was really funny (I don't think it was petty, just she's in a different reality).

Aside from not feeling sorry for her because she can only find $100 per person meals (which she says are nothing special, at her corner bistro -- huh, I can find plenty of nothing special meals in Paris at corner bistro/cafes less than that) == her remark about 6 croissants costing $50, by which she had the nerve to add after that statement that she was not exaggerating! -- this remark shows that something is wrong with her as it is patently false.

I don't know where in Paris you'd pay about $8 or 6.6 euro for a single croissant. I suspect they wouldn't even cost that much at a cafe on the Champs-Elysees, but I know they don't cost anywhere near that when you buy them in a bakery, Brioche Doree, etc. I think they are around .90 to 1 euro, when I was there last summer. So why did she make that remark that tourists must spend $50 for six croissants?

She also claimed that the newspaper costs $4 a day, and that she reads Le Figaro. That paper only costs 1,20 euro a day normally, which isn't $4. Sure, you can buy two a day and spend about that, but in her article it pretty clearly said it was $4 for one newspaper. If you subscribe, which she does, it's only 26 euro a month.

She leads a very privileged life, expat or not. It seems impossible for her to believe that lots of ordinary folks in the US don't do all those things either, and it has nothing to do with euro versus dollar (eg, eat out a lot). I just don't understand why she made statements that just aren't accurate.

Cholmondley_Warner Apr 28th, 2008 09:50 AM

if she wanders around Paris displaying that attitude it's a wonder she isn't a more regular user of France's excellent health service, because surely most parisians would want to slap her silly.

cheryllj Apr 28th, 2008 10:12 AM

I can't believe the Post published such tripe.

She can't fly business class from Paris to San Francisco?? Oh no! She actually has to &quot;desperately&quot; search for cheaper airfares in, quelle horreur, coach!!

Tell that to the Americans who are losing their houses to foreclosure.

She seems to think that expats get no &quot;sympathy&quot; because Americans resent them for living somewhere &quot;better&quot; like Paris. I don't resent her for living in Paris (lucky her), I resent her for being an elitist snob who has no clue how most Americans live every day.

Margo_Chester Apr 28th, 2008 02:58 PM

&lt; . . . an elitist snob who has no clue how most Americans live every day.&gt;

I don't think she has a clue about how most Parisians live every day either!

tuscanlifeedit Apr 28th, 2008 06:11 PM

And what happened to her book and movie deal money?

I could live on that alone for at least a decade, even in Paris.

Underhill Apr 28th, 2008 08:43 PM

Whoa! I know Diane Johnson, and arrogant and haughty she is not. Her article is an attempt to explain what the drooping dollar has done to people living in Europe; it can't be easy when you're paid in dollars.

As she says, &quot;Almost all we Americans living over here are struck by the lack of sympathy we get from people back home.&quot; Judging from the posts here, I would have to say that she is absolutely right.

Incidentally, Ms. Johnson began her life in the groves of academe and wrote a number of well received non-fiction books. She also writes novels, one of which was made into a Merchant-Ivory film. Her works used to get high praise on this site when people asked for book nominations.

nbbrown Apr 28th, 2008 08:44 PM

If she is spending $50 on a half dozen croissants, and $20 a week on fresh flowers, no wonder she is having financial woes!

She won't have to worry about &quot;detecting a note of unexpressed malice&quot; from Americans anymore. I'm afraid after this article, the malice will be loud and clear!

I'm sorry, Underhill. This article is definitely arrogant and haughty. I truly feel with that attitude and snippiness, she will get nothing other than lack of sympathy from Americans.

kerouac Apr 28th, 2008 09:36 PM

Those $50 croissants stuck in my craw as well, especially since one of my local bakeries has a Saturday special of 6 croissants for 2.50&euro;.

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