Walking around New York City you’re bound to hear a plethora of different languages being spoken by the residents, immigrants, and tourists that make this city a true melting pot. However, unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, in certain neighborhoods, i.e. downtown Manhattan and in hip areas of Brooklyn, you’ve probably heard more French spoken in the streets than Spanish! Who are all these French people and what are they doing in New York?
First off, tourists. French people are famous for their to-die-for amount of paid vacation, and lots of them seem to flock to New York. Parisians especially have a love affair with New York, as “twenty-something” (I’m getting really sick of this word) writer/ex-pat Chelsea Fagan explains in her Vice article, Parisians’ Sordid Love Affair With Brooklyn. For the Parisians, New York is a place where anything is possible and you can wear whatever you want without people judging you. Plus a lot of French people seem to have a clear obsession with Woody Allen, one of the only American comedians to have a sense of humor deemed amusing by the French.
It’s funny, because a lot of Americans visit Paris with typical visions of cycling around with baguettes and a sexy, metrosexual French man feeding them copious amounts of red wine and chocolate beneath the Eiffel Tower, and leave the city entirely disillusioned after putting up with rude waiters, abandoned dog poop, and pretentious citizens. But it seems that the stereotypical dream of New York, that of a city that never sleeps, has everything to offer, and where taking the subway in sweatpants or a banana costume will elicit the same non-response (because there is always someone more out-there or nutty than you), comes true for the French. They eat this sh*t up!
Lots of French people also move to New York to work for banks or French companies with American subsidiaries. Lots of them live in the Upper East Side and according to this French report sent along by my former college French partner, Taylor, Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn (or Broook-leen in a French accent), is becoming “Little Paris”, so much so that there are several bilingual English-French schools popping up in the neighborhood. Many French parents want their children to grow up speaking the language but with the Lycée and other French private schools being a) the same price as many private universities and b) unable to accommodate the entire population of French-speaking enfants in NYC, parents have banded together to organize dual language programs in their neighborhoods. Other dual language programs around New York City include Spanish, Mandarin, Haitian Creole, Bengali, Ukrainian and Russian, so it’s only normal that the French would jump on this bandwagon.
The New York Times did a story on Le Baron, an upscale Parisian nightclub that has recently opened its doors in Chinatown, and report that it’s easy for French people to feel at home in New York, with the thousands of restaurants, boulangeries, and hotspots that remind them of home, all while simultaneously feeling millions of miles away from home. Oddly enough, three Frenchmen opened up a New York-themed bar called L’Experimental Cocktail Bar in Paris’ 2nd Arrondissement…only to open one up in New York! It’s called coming full circle, I guess.
But at the end of the day, tourists drive us all insane and we’re all just waiting for the damn train to come.