After reading 32 writers describe their time spent in Paris, it is much easier to see how challenging it can be for Americans to live in the French culture. I have never been to Paris, but I've become enamored of it from afar and I picked up this compilation of essays to get my fix. I feel that I have come away with a deeper understanding of the culture, which in some ways runs contrary to US values. Americans tend to be apprehensive to visit France, as they find the French rude, haughty and condescending. Not surprisingly, the French find Americans to be the same way, but even more so, they see us as entitled, as if we can go into their country and expect them to speak English to us (Sound familiar?) The French find Americans to be sloppy, demanding, rude, loud, and poor abiders of rules. Each of the writers talked about how challenging it was to fit in, as Parisians seem to follow their own set of rules, that seem to change arbitrarily and without notice. And, they can be quick to attack when a newbie fails to follow a rule. One writer talked with shock about how as a teenager she stepped on the grass in the park and a complete stranger (man) came up and slapped her across the face. The book takes many angles as the contributers came from many walks of life. Several writers chronicled their university days, remembering fondly the poor conditions of their apartments and lack of food. A few of the contributers are famous, with one famous chef and a noted writer discussing how they have made Paris their home. One essay was written by a homeless lady who blogged about her daily struggles to protect her children while living on the streets. For most, Paris was described fondly but with frustration. The years spent living in Paris were very challenging... some hated to try to speak to storekeepers, but finally learned the rules of what to expect and how to stand firm. Others found it challenging to find enough cheap food to eat, as they would sometimes walk all over Paris to find it. The irony being that the food that was found was sometimes of such exceptional quality that it far exceeded student faire. The stories offered great bredth and depth regarding both the beauty and the dark sides of the culture. For example, while women are given exceptional benefits in the workplace with long maternity leaves and protected jobs, they are also light years behind in being treated as equals and not as sexual objects. This topic was explored by an author who gave birth to her children in Paris and was astounded by the benefits, while having to accept the other aspects, such as having men make advances on her in lewd fashion, which was apparently common at the time. Parenting also, is apparently much different, as the French culture does not encircle around the child, rather the child must come along to follow rules and get in line with the parent's agenda. In all, this was a fascinating glimpse of a much different culture than ours, one that has been around for much longer yet not changed as much over time. I'm not sure if it made me want to visit Paris more or less than I did when I started. At least I will feel that I understand a little more about it when I do make a trip!