How Locals Dress: Paris vs. New York

Standing in front of the closet, I am in a whole pallet of emotional states, confused being the most prominent. My room is beautifully decorated with large, antique mirrors and modern paintings, all very colorful, which inspire me. For a few days, I want to forget about my New Yorker blacks and put on the most ridiculously colorful clothes. After all, I am traveling and traveling is nothing if not transformative. I want to transform but there is a problem: Parisians tone down, a lot! Anything but neutrals and blacks attract public attention! I mean they go out of their way to turn around and look at you with a disappointed expression of discontent.

“Oh my! Is that…Good heavens!..Fuchsia?” asked the eyes of every person on the subway the other day, when they saw a young, Asian woman with short, pink hair, who was wearing high-waisted, wide-legged, vintage jeans with pink socks underneath. So not…comment dire? Parisian. An arts student at Sorbonne? Or a visiting intern from Hong Kong, who came to work at Louis Vuitton Foundation to shake things up a little bit? Either way, she had to be a transplant and a daring one too to publicly break off the chains of neutrals. Her pink head stood out like an unripe grape in a bunch ready to become wine.  My heart melted for her. Just imagine how many women and men with hair in all colors of the rainbow you see on the subway on a daily basis in New York? So let’s put this on the side as number one style difference between the two cities: Paris: refined, restrictive, rule-abiding vs. New York: any freaking thing you want.

Then, I had to face another problem, which started even before I arrived in Paris while I was still packing: I felt obliged to represent. Normally, the only time that happens is when I am trying to prove a point. I tend to become my point entirely in an effort to enforce my message, so a walking enforcement of American brands I became. I left my lovely, little French apartment wearing a blue-green striped J. Crew sweater, jean leggings from GAP, a red coat from Zara (this was my only European affair), a burlap bag from FEED and purple-blue Brooks running shoes with orange strings. Though my red coat inevitably failed the test (see my note on neutrals), I want us to focus on the shoes, for a second.

I know I am a tourist (and despite all my disguise efforts, Parisians know it too) but did I really have to wear tourist shoes?? I could have went unnoticed despite the coat, but in a city with millions of women wearing nothing but oxfords and flat booties (in black or brown, but of course) I had to go ahead and put on the flashiest, running shoes ever made by mankind. It’s over. I am forever marked as a tourist and a disgrace for the fashionable elite. Worst of all, I did bring oxfords with me but they are gold. (Bass: another American brand. What is happening to me?) Even if I did wear them, weather is too cold to put on my black, leather jacket: a signature New Yorker item. I have to wear them with my red coat, which I quickly learn is illegal. Wearing one bright colored article of clothing is frowned upon but wearing two, at the same time…that’s against the French law. I mean it.

Having done everything within my power to disappoint stylistic Parisians, I decide to play the tourist card and retreat to my visiter corner to silently observe the locals. Besides I like my running shoes. They are the most comfortable walking devices ever created. In fact, I bet if the French created a miraculous brand like Brooks, they would have dumped the oxfords at a heartbeat. Until then, I’ll let them be the experts in classy, leather flat shoes and probably buy myself a pair while I am at it.

Here are a few details I was able to gather with my New Yorker eyes about how Parisians dress by occasion. (Another version of this could be grouped by neighborhood, which is currently in progress for both cities.)


Paris: Have I mentioned leather oxfords? OK, now that that’s checked, let’s move on to tops. Maybe a white, silk, short-sleeved blouse with deep armholes? Because you spiced things up with a black, lace bra? Work it sister! Down below, I know you’re wearing black jeans. Make up? Please. This isn’t Maybelline; you are born with it. Though you are wearing rings. Who wouldn’t want to show off those gorgeous rubies and sapphires and emeralds? Amen.

New York: Dining-out in the city is about the self and nothing else! It is a sacred ritual, for which we do quite a lot of homework and wear literally whatever we want. Hello pink-hair? We like you! Also, we tend to put on red lipstick a lot. Hope that’s OK with you. It’ll come off after the third shot, or you’ll stop seeing entirely. Either way, you won’t have to freshen it up every 30 minutes, promise!


Paris: Why should you dress differently for the Opera than you would for dining-out? In fact, you probably go for dinner, followed by the Opera right after. We get it. You’ve been at it for much longer than the rest of us. You’re too used to it now, it’s too much part of your daily life. You go to the Opera like New Yorkers go to the movies. OK, wear your leather flats and your high-end, leather tote. Fine, but I see that you did put on more jewelry than you usually do. Your earrings are a joy to look at! They are vintage Chanels, aren’t they? A family heirloom? Beautiful. Once again, Parisian woman, you achieved a simple yet highly chic look, you refined you!

New York: This is a great time to feel and be glamorous! Put on your high heels in any color, form or shape you want (maybe leave ‘60s platforms at home). Show off your legs, give us a little cleavage. You worked hard to maintain your professionalism all week. This is your night! Put some bling on. How does the song go? Shine bright like a diamond! You earned it. Also, wear the best and brightest coat of all times. Right outside of Lincoln Center, as you enter through the doors of the Metropolitan Opera, is when all eyes are on you. You want to stand out. We want to watch you. We still give the Opera the magic and glamor it deserves!

9am & 6pm rush hour on the subway:

Paris: Oh la la. How do they manage to look so similar yet maintain their individuality? The crowd is so monochrome but when you look at each woman individually, you see that they in fact dress very differently. One could be wearing a black cashmere coat in fitted-cut while another wears a black wool, bell-shaped coat. Yet a third one is wearing a black cape. Is that leather? Wow, never seen a fully leather cape. That’s what I call unique within a defined format. The shoes? You know about the shoes. Still the oxfords but they are pretty so one doesn’t get tired of them though one does start to wonder: do they ever hurt your feet? Does no one have bunions in Paris?  

New York: We are practical. That allows for longer hours at work and easier mornings. If we wanted to underline our individuality with clothes, we would have moved to San Francisco. Work means black or gray at best. Black two-piece suit for men, occasionally with stripes or blue or both. Black skirt and jacket for women, with an occasional touch of red somewhere and possible addition of pearl or silver jewelry. Flat Torys. Represent, remember?

Walking the dog:

Paris: A champagne turtleneck sweater, sleeves slightly rolled to show Cartier watch. Black, wool pleated pants, just above the ankles, enough to show sheer, black trouser socks. Black peacock jacket with a hoodie. The hoodie is down of course, because does anyone wear hoodies? Aren’t they just a fun feast for the eye? Black, leather oxfords with black tassel.

New York: Have I mentioned we are practical when we want to save time? A hoodie sweater with the hoodie on weather-permitting. A puffy vest: the puffier, the better. Yoga pants and bright running shoes.


Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

What happened around 10 pm on Friday, November 13, 2015 in one of the most beautiful cities in the world was beyond comprehension for most people, including myself.

Young hearts were having a great time at a concert hall; maybe for the first time in their lives at a performance by an out of town band. They were super excited and happy to be there. Drinks in their hands and friends by their side, they didn’t have a care in the world; full of energy, full of life.

Others were at a fun football match; France against Germany. Each had friends from each other’s country. They were joking around; jumping up to their feet every time other team came close to scoring and then feeling relieved when their heroic goalkeeper saved the day, again. And then GOAL! “Oh la la!! Quelle chance! Mais c’est pas grave. Nous avons beaucoup de temps encore!” It’s alright, we still have time; they consoled each other with a tap on the back. It was the best stressful minutes of their lives. They were having a ball.

A couple was having dinner at a Cambodian restaurant in the trendy neighborhood they always like to go on Friday nights after a glass of relaxation wine at home. They were hard-workers; both needed to free their minds of work-noise. They were adventurous, too. Always willing to try new things; unfamiliar tastes. Tonight was about leaving the office behind and enjoying Cambodian cuisine for the first time in their lives. They were in love and exactly where they wanted to be.

But others had a different idea of a first in a lifetime. For this first time in their lives, eight young men were going to die on November 13, taking 127 lives with them and leaving 300 more in hospital beds. Total impact of such a high scale terrorist attack, of course, goes far beyond the physical loss and leaves a deep dent on souls of every person involved, directly or indirectly; Muslim or Christian; French or not.

I was there when everything happened at a Japanese restaurant 20-minute walking distance from Le Petit Cambodge. I was enjoying sushi when others were choking in their own blood a few seconds away from eternal rest and asking for help from their friends, who were already at peace, forever. What separated me from them was 2 kilometers or 1.2 miles. I was with 4 friends: 3 Americans, all originally from somewhere else in the world, like Cuba or thePhillipines and an English friend.

Distances or nationalities didn’t matter, of course. What mattered last night was liberty, equality and solidarity as the French say. But not in the usual meanings those three words represent. Last night for 2.2 million people in Paris and so many more around the world, liberty meant that NOONE could remain free of terror, massively supported by the exportation of arms from leading nations of the world to terror-fostering ones. That everybody was indeed equal when it came to terror, which didn’t discriminate between white, black, Christian, Muslim, tall, short but just mass terrorized all human beings in the worst way possible. And that against such an attack, everyone indeed quickly weaved unbreakable bonds of fraternity.

By bonds of fraternity, I am not talking about President Obama’s live address supporting France and condemning the attacks. I am talking about the passer-by, who was scared for his life and yet stayed in the scene trying to help those lying on the ground. I am talking about the Filipino friend, who graciously opened his door to me and my friends. We all had met an hour before the attacks.

It is hard to explain how one will react in the midst of terror and yet simultaneously very easy to feel stronger than before. I am not letting last night’s terror, or any other terrorist attack that took place anywhere in the world, recently or long ago, get to me. What me and many other Parisiens are doing tonight is go to a restaurant; enjoy some good food at the company of great friends and NOT LET TERROR GET TO US.  I am also not going back to New York, either but staying in Paris for another week, discovering the beautiful city and keeping my dates with Mona Lisa, Hemingway and others, as planned. People of Paris are cautious but not afraid.

Paranoia will not stop terrorism; end of greed will.


Je Suis là and More Things

Some of you might remember that as part of  my #AirbnbBookProject, I traveled around Turkey this summer, staying at different Airbnb homes and learning about my hosts' lives so that I could write about them and share everything with the rest of the world through a book. 

Well, I finished writing! Book is published and I am now a global best-seller. You can buy the book here.

No. I didn't. But if you did click the link, you'll see some of my wonderful Paris photos and hopefully double-tap. That's still free! Do it while you can.

I can hear you say "Paris! My, my! What gives!?" Airbnb Open brought me here. It is a global, annual event, for which some of us crazy Airbnb advocates get together and talk about how amazing we are. When I saw that this year's was to take place in Paris, guess what I did!? Yep, absolutely I went and bought myself silk scarves and culotte pants, but of course.

Last time I was in Paris, I still thought saying "Jacques Chirac" in French accent was the best cultural activity ever and I didn't even take notice of the amazing 3 Euro wine menus, at all! But now that I am all grown-up and appreciative of good (any) wine, I feel ready for Paris! I am not interviewing any hosts this time, though I am staying at an Airbnb home of course, with a French family near the Eiffel Tower in an apartment I would never be able to afford otherwise. They have 2 little dogs. They are the most excited creatures I have ever seen. Husband and wife speak limited English; I speak limited French. They have a 16-year old daughter, who is going through what any 16 year-old in the world goes through. She thinks New York is the coolest place on earth (I have to agree). We brew French coffee in the morning and chat in Frenglish. Life is perfect in my French home. Also, last night I saw this:

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That doesn't suck either. 

I will update you everyday about how our global Airbnb cult group is doing. If you're like that New Yorker guy, who was on Humans of New York's new book Storiesyou might not want to follow Airbnb updates. He gets worried when everyone in the room thinks the same. 

That's OK. I still love you. Airbnb Open is only for 3 days. THEN I will have Paris all to myself. Hanging out with Hemingway, eating lots (and lots) of chocolate followed by gallons of wine accompanied by its best friend, cheese and just walking around for the purpose of walking are a few things I plan on doing. So come join me.

A plus tard! 


Karakoy Istanbul and My Cuter Than a Baby Hosts, Utku and Ayse

I am checking into my next #Airbnb home tomorrow in Karakoy, Istanbul and I am so excited that I went around the neighborhood several times already to do some prior investigation. Let me tell you that it is absolutely a must-see. Remember when Williamsburg, Brooklyn was famous for its shady streets and low rents instead of currently popular artists flea markets and oyster menus? Well it's the exact same scenario in Karakoy, except shady streets remain right in between a new, luxury hotel construction and "best bakery in Istanbul" type of cute macaron place. Complicated I know; but as pictured on the famous "Istanbul. They Call It Chaos, We Call It Home" graphic, nothing beautiful here is simple. 

How about my hosts? I don't think they will be any less daring than what Karakoy has become. They are a married couple, who live in a duplex apartment with killer views of the Bosphorus and a cat named Bekir, which rhymes with tekir (tabby cat). Utku, the husband, is a serial entrepreneur, who clearly cannot be chained down by corporate ladder's magnetic hands. Ayse, the wife, is described as friendly, warm and welcoming by previous guests but I can see beyond her smiley face. She texts like an open-minded and strong woman, who knows just what she wants from life. How do I know that from someone's text messages? Hey! I know a thing or two about writing and what it shows about people. 

I cannot wait to tell you more about Karakoy / Galata / Taksim gems and of course the story of Utku and Ayse. 

Also, don't forget to check out the new #mankind video from Airbnb. It reinforces the message I want to give with my #AirbnbBookProject (people are kind and can be trusted) and they did use a cute baby to deliver that same message but it's OK because you know what; my hosts are cuter!