A recent trip to the “La Ville-Lumière” opened my eyes to a few cultural differences that exist between London and Paris. Nothing huge, just little variances I noticed which caught my ever keen attention.
Quite a few elements, unsurprisingly, revolve around Paris’ excellent Metro system.
London typically offers an average singer-guitarist, occasionally someone more talented and entertaining, but nearly always an individual. Paris swings full spectrum and it isn’t uncommon to have large classical bands or even a string quartet performing for your loose change.
Metro tickets are deceptively small, I guess the French used to be much more environmentally aware than Londoners were. Then London got Oyster, which takes the notion of reusable tickets to another level.
Whereas London feels that consistency is best in the station signage, Paris offers a bit more character and individuality to the station name and decoration. From the upper-class and elegant Louvre Rivoli, to the beautiful mosaic style of Chemin Vert and of course the more traditional Varenne.
Paris seems to have realised that strangers don’t actually want to sit next to each other, to the point in London where I’ve seen people avoid an empty seat just because there is someone in the adjacent seat!
LED maps (similar to the Barcelona Metro) offer location at a glance. I have my suspicions, however, that London could be holding back on this concept for, ahem, budgetary reasons.
London sticks to silhouette line art for this, whereas Paris, even with the bizarre introduction of a rabbit character, gets the message across in a much more light-hearted graphic representation.
Paris has had a bicycle hire scheme, or “Vélib”, since 2007 and from what I observed it is still running well, though you wonder how much Barclay’s corporate colour scheme had to do with them winning the London advertising bid, especially when you compare it to the Parisian equivalent that seemingly blends into the street.
A bit cheeky, but I also love how the French are, almost painfully, obvious in their directions and signage for both large landmarks, and exit routes, clearly overstating on both fronts.
Overall, and all tongue-in-cheek comments aside, I completely recommend Paris as a city. Beautiful architecture and museums, fantastic scenery and incredible food – there’s very little not to like!