Down & Out in Paris (Washington Post)

Apr 28th, 2008, 11:36 PM
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We are studying emotions. Two students suggested that some posted replies were based on jealousy. I think it is possible for someone use to travelling first class to be: upset, annoyed, vexed or even angry at having to travel tourist class.
GSteed is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 01:03 AM
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"The corollary of that attitude is, of course, that Americans must unconsciously believe that there are better places to live than the United States. But this is the Great Unsayable"

Untrue. Americans could care less whether you live abroad or not. People resent your type, not because you live abroad, but because you are pompous and really, really annoying.
ronnie36 is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 01:33 AM
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It's one of the most elitist articles I have ever read. Remind me to NEVER contribute to her income by purchasing one of her novels. Reminds me of another expat friend, an Australian (so am I) who lived in New York for a few years and then Singapore for a while. I love her dearly but she finds the strangest things to complain about...
cathies is online now  
Apr 29th, 2008, 01:42 AM
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>>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.<<

True enough; ask the people who are living in Europe on fixed USD pensions.

But they are not paying $200. for a meal and $20. for fresh flowers every week, and they probably never flew business class.

Ms. Johnson will get no sympathy from them either.
Zerlina is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 03:24 AM
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She won't get much sympathy and neither would most of us. The truth is that a lot of the things that any of us complain about are what most of the world would consider "rich peopleís problems" and they most certainly are.

A lot of us probably blew more on lawn fertilizer or pet food last weekend than most people in the world earn in a week.

We wash our cars, water our lawns and flush our toilets with more clean water in a year than most people will ever see in a lifetime and then think it costs too much. We complain about our telephone, cable, Internet and energy bills as we live in often oversized, climate-controlled quarters with nicely mowed lawns, where one of the rooms would be more luxury than a lot of people can even imagine. Here in the U.S., we spend a lower percentage of our incomes on food than nearly anyone on earth and rightly regard obesity as a huge issue in our society. If our second or third car needs a repair, itís too expensive. Airfares are too high and the seats are too narrow. Have you seen the price of steak lately? You know what it cost me to have that picture framed? How much did you lose on your 401(k) last quarter? Can you believe the prices on that room service menu? Event tickets and the concession prices, once youíre inside? And TAXES!!! Yadda, yadda, yadda.

But just imagine standing on a street corner in Bangladesh and telling the typical passerby that you donít think youíre going to be able to make much more than the minimum payment on your Visa card this month. See how much sympathy you get.

So even the things we get to complain about are what many on this earth would see as luxuries and Diane isn't much different. I'm not prepared to criticize her any more than a lot of us could reasonably criticize ourselves, if we were grimacing faces squatting somewhere lower on the totem pole of comparative wealth. Most of our complaints would sound just as goofy to them as hers may to some of us.

Flyboy is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 04:06 AM
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"...struck by the lack of sympathy we get from people back home." Judging from the posts here, I would have to say that she is absolutely right.<P>

The posts on this board reflect an audience familiar with Paris. We know one doesn't have to spend $9 per croissant or $200 on a meal. I'm not likely to sympathize with someone who has to hold her nose and eat one of those paltry $2 croissants---the ones I eat every morning in Paris and dream about at home.

It's her elitist whining about giving up luxuries that is so off-putting. From her high pedestal she flippantly assigns an "unconscious" motivation to us States-dwellers: "We have to live here, why should you get out of it?". We have to live here?! As if we're being punished or something?! Jeez. Analyze thyself, lady.

I'm sure she's a perfectly nice lady. And her writing may be wonderful. But she blew it on this one. It could have been interesting. But she turned it into a fine "whine", laced with a slash of ever-so-fashionable anti-Americanism.
JeanneB is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 04:39 AM
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I can't believe she was only spending 20 dollars a week on flowers - even when she thought she was rich....what a cheapskate.
Lawchick is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 07:21 AM
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Excellent points Flyboy. I'm always going on and on to my college-aged children (but they love the parental input, I'm sure) about the fact that being middle-class or above in the US means, on the world income continuum, that we are barely a millimeter from Bill Gates' spot on the line.

But I agree Ms. Johnson's article missed the tone I assume she was aiming for. Reminds me of that article in the NYTimes recently where their reporter was talking about the problems of living in the "most chic" neighborhood in Paris and running out on a quick errand in your jogging clothes and bumping into your friends the Minister of Finance and the Ambassador to somewhere-or-other. Quelle horreur! It came across as a parody of a name-dropping shallow snob. Maybe living is Paris is bad for writers ...
NorCalif is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 07:36 AM
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As an expat who has lived in 3rd world countries for 7 years...I would LOVE the have the chance to live in Paris. You'd hear no complaining from me!!!!
Grcxx3 is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 07:57 AM
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Underhill, which of her books did Merchant-Ivory make into a film?

"We may be reduced to choucroute and cassoulet ..." Oh, what I'd give for really good dishes of both. Honestly, I don't really care one way or another about her writing style or the subject. There are many lifestyles beyond mine and many who spend much more than $200 a meal here in Chicago or when traveling. But, lucky her to live in Paris and to have the means to live well.
Chicago_Heather is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 08:08 AM
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Ms. Johnson's book Le Divorce was made into a movie starring Kate Hudson.
NorCalif is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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Let's have a little sympathy for a writer many of us have enjoyed reading. I would live in Paris in a heart beat, so no blame there. And the reason the dollar is so bad is same the reason that the super rich are getting huge tax breaks while the government and the middle class slides deeper into debt.
Just because many people have a harder time of it than she does, doesn't mean we should roundly attack someone who can make light of her difficulties. I also complain about the prices in Europe. Now someone did it in the Washington Post. Good for her.
nutjobz is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 08:14 AM
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Is she now a "nouveau poor" expat? She has homes in SF and Paris and her apt. in 6eme is actually 4 apartments combined into one.
esm is online now  
Apr 29th, 2008, 08:22 AM
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Actually I generally sympathize with expats living on declining dollars - I just think Ms. Johnson was not a very good ambassador for the group.

DH and I are due to spend next year in Amsterdam while he is doing virus research in a lab there. It is a wonderful opportunity and he will be doing important work, but since he will be paid in dollars by his US university, we are of course worried about our expenses being unpredictable as the dollar declines. And I, as a "trailing spouse" will not have a work visa. Our DD is due to be spending her junior-year-abroad in Paris at the same time. She is a French major and has been planning for this year since high school. But three of us living in Europe for a year on US dollars does seem daunting at the moment.

Lest I sound like Ms. Johnson, I am not complaining - I'm sure we'll make do and we are truly grateful for the opportunity to be over there at the same time. So come visit us at whichever Amsterdam canal bridge we are living under! ;->
NorCalif is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 08:24 AM
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Why don't her and her hubby just get jobs with froggy firms? Problem solved.
Cholmondley_Warner is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 08:43 AM
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NorCalif, as you pointed out, your situation is different from hers. And I don't think she is living off US$ as her husband is working for an international outfit in France. They're both retired from UC system and her mother bought the first studio apartment for her in the early 80s.

Here's a link to an article about her:
esm is online now  
Apr 29th, 2008, 08:58 AM
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I haven't read the article, so I can't comment directly on it. But the $200 meal -- for two people, I presume -- doesn't seem so ridiculously expensive if you live in southeast England. That would be £100 for two people. I wouldn't like to spend that every week, but it's all too easy to do, eating in London, or even at gastropubs out here in the sticks. And there are lots of restaurants recommended in this very forum that cost far more than that a meal for two.
mjsilver is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 09:02 AM
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Diane Johnson did not retire from the UC system; she left after getting one of those grants that pays you not to work for 3 years. That enabled her to concentrate on her writing.

I've re-read her article, and I suspect her tongue was strongly in her cheek while writing.
Underhill is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 09:03 AM
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The Merchant-Ivory film was "Le Divorce."
Underhill is offline  
Apr 29th, 2008, 09:04 AM
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I think what bothered me most are the issues pointed out by Christina.

$200 a meal at a corner bistro?
$50 for 6 croissants?
$4 for newspaper?

yk is offline  

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