Feb 21st, 2017, 07:21 PM

Feeling Dim in the City of Light

By Asia Letlow
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Julian Fong
Do Parisians care about the iconic landmarks that surround them?

There are countless tales that detail the ineptitude of tourists from the perspective of locals; they complain that tourists don't know how to speak the language, don't know how to conduct themselves in everyday settings and are outright rude (complements of the teachings of their home country). It is a common trope that, to Parisians, tourists cannot reconcile with or comprehend the culture they've only come to view superficially. However, when it comes to observing the monuments and artwork of Paris, it seems that tourists may have more of a willingness to absorb the culture than locals. While some are eager with task of checking off items on their bucket list, just as many are capable of taking in and appreciating the culture on a level that locals cannot seem to match. 

While there is a level of history and cultural importance that lives with them in their own neighborhood, locals often experience disillusion to common Parisian landmarks such as the Louvre and Eiffel Tower; the everyday exposure leaves the experience stale and sometimes meaningless. French AUP student Rizlane Benabi associated the lack of locals flocking to common sights with the lack of time, and frankly, the lack of interest; myriad affairs such as work tend to get in the way. "[As] Parisians, we want to see other things, other monuments, other cultures. So it's something that is really normal for us. We don't care about it," she relayed, nonchalantly. She also noted that if Parisians were to visit a city foreign to them, they would be just as invested in the culture and art of that area. Jonathan Morales, also a Parisian student at the university, lamented that he does not possess an interest because he has been surrounded by the sights for a good majority of his life. "It's not that I don't care, it's that I'm used to it. I see it every day. Obviously I respect the beauty and art ... I've always been used to seeing all these landmarks my entire life," he said. 

Image credit: Wikimedia/Coyau

On the contrary, some students who reside in Paris as temporary residents are working towards transforming their superficial love for the beauty of Paris landmarks into actual acquaintance with them. Elsa Khoury, a visiting student from Lebanon, expressed that she has become more keen on the historical aspect as she has gotten older; as a child she was disappointed and unable to understand the true culture and depth of the popular places. "I was a child the first time I visited the popular landmarks in Paris. I couldn't understand the history behind [the monuments] which made them less interesting." Now that she is older, she is taking the time to acquaint herself with the meaning and relevance behind them.  

While Benabi posited that locals are somewhat dissociated from the glamor of Parisian landmarks,  she also noted that tourists are equally unable to appreciate them for their true value. "When I see tourists, they just come to France and they spend their money. I don't think that they're really interested by the [hi]story of the town. I don't think they come to Paris to appreciate culture."  Both tourist and local, then, seem uninterested in the rich history that is the foundation of these popular monuments; they are either over-sensationalized or under-appreciated . However, Santiago Rodriguez believes the opposite; to him, tourists are capable of admiring Parisian landmarks for their cultural richness. "People come to Paris to see the actual art and culture that it has to offer, so they take all of it [in] so much deeper than a person who has lived it here their whole life." 

Though it may seem surprising, maybe it actually is so that tourists are able to put their superficial viewpoints aside long enough to absorb the beauty that Paris has to offer.