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Les banlieues of Paris

One of the things that I notice about people from Paris is that they’re always very clear on whether they live in Paris or outside of Paris in the banlieues (the suburbs). They’ll say things like, “No I don’t live in Paris. It’s too expensive. I live in such and such a place in the banlieues.”

I suppose this isn’t entirely different than saying you don’t live in New York, you live on Long Island, or you don’t live in Toronto, you live in Burlington. Except that there seems to be a greater sense of division when they say it here in Paris (although it’s entirely possible that it could be my rusty French that is leading me to believe this).

There is a sense that you’re either inside the Boulevard Périphérique, or you’re really not. And this seems like a shame. Cities regions care less about administrative borders and more about the movement of people, ideas, and goods.

And as much as I love Paris (the central part), it is, from what I can tell, far more static than some of its surrounding areas in terms of new people (immigration), new buildings, and probably new ideas.

Paris can sometimes feel like a perfectly curated museum. It’s beautiful and precious and should not be touched — please stand behind the ropes mesdames et messieurs. But perhaps it’s time to equally celebrate les banlieues and recognize what they have to offer.

2 Comments

  1. AM

    Especially true with the Ile de France région, since many of its “suburbs” are really urban satellites, which come will all the trappings of a city, walkable, mixed, dense, culturally and economically vibrant… Their suburbs look very little like ours.

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  2. Rafik Awad

    During my 9 years in Chicago I have heard many many people say they are from Chicago or live in Chicago when in fact they live in DeKalb, IL a town ~100miles west of Chicago where there is only two bars open 8pm

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