Founder of the Asian American empowerment writing program Glamourbaby Diaries, Ruby Veridiano is fulfilling a dream as a fashion student living in the City of Lights. Here, she tells us what it’s like to be an Asian American living in Paris.
I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that I’d ever have the opportunity to live in France. As the child of Filipino immigrants raised in a modest California town, I came from humble beginnings. Though I’d dreamed of living in Paris for many years, it seemed only a distant fantasy. Yet, as life has proven, no dream is too good to come true.
Over the past decade, I had invested my life in the nonprofit sector as an artist educator and girls’ empowerment champion. Through it all, I had never forgotten my first love: fashion. Last September, I serendipitously found a program at the American University of Paris that would allow me to merge my passion for social good with my love for fashion through a degree specializing in corporate social responsibility in the fashion and luxury industries. A few weeks later, I was accepted, and my whirlwind journey to France began. By January, I had officially become a fashion student and a formal resident of Paris. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
When I first arrived in Paris, I was awed by the romance and elegance of the city. Everything from the architecture to the food to the fashion was created in the spirit of exquisite beauty. In fact, all I saw during my first hour on the streets of Paris were well-tailored suits, plush furs and a sea of red-soled high heels in proper homage to Christian Louboutin. Having Paris as a classroom is pretty much the most exciting thing to happen to a fashion student.
As I soon learned, the French art de vivre makes Americans seem like workaholic maniacs. French culture celebrates the ability to enjoy life, and that includes ensuring that work won’t detract from this pursuit. Dinner is enjoyed for hours to savor every taste, and meals are often gourmet heavens filled with artisanal cheeses and tastefully designed plates. And the wine! Red wines are so necessary to the French that they flow freely and endlessly.
Yet despite all the wonderful French food, a Filipina girl will always crave her rice, lumpia and, well, her community. Luckily, the biggest surprise I’ve gotten since moving here is that I can’t turn a street corner without seeing a Filipino person or hearing Tagalog. Since the Philippines has the largest domestic workforce in the world, Filipinos are everywhere, even in Paris.
In the 17th arrondissement, you can find groups of Filipina women gathering at Parc Monceau, a popular park in the city. Many of them came to France to pursue better working conditions and work as nannies for wealthy children. When speaking with one of them, I was saddened to hear how she has had to give up raising her own child for another, but she does it to ensure that she can take care of her family back home. This is the story many overseas Filipina workers share, and I deeply honor their sacrifice and resilience.
There are also Filipina and other Asian women who have grown up in France, and admittedly, it is strange to see that, although they look a lot like me, they speak a completely different language. And since Paris attracts visitors worldwide, it’s not uncommon to come across Asians with a diverse range of accents, ranging from Australian to British. Hands down, the biggest blessing of living internationally is witnessing how diverse our diaspora truly is.
As I continue living out this dream, I’ve picked up a few favorite spots along the way. Here, some of the highlights of my Paris.
Chez Francis: Conveniently situated right in front of the Pont d’Alma bridge, the outdoor seating at this café guarantees a front row view of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River. A little pricey, but the view is worth it.
Palais Galliera: Paris is the fashion capital of the world, so it’s only right that you attend a fashion exhibit. Palais Galliera is home to the city’s most inspiring fashion curations. A must.
Lafayette Café: While you’re in the fashion mood, stop by one of the city’s largest department stores, Galeries Lafayette. You don’t have to shop, but you have to eat at the sixth floor café, which offers the best panoramic views of Paris.
Les Arts Décoratifs: Sure, the Louvre is famous, but the smaller museum to the left of it packs a pretty powerful punch, too. Come here to check out exhibits on decorative arts and design, including the works of legendary fashion designer Dries Van Noten.
Parc Monceau: All the runners come to Parc Monceau to jog, but as a Filipina, this place is crucial. Because many Filipinas congregate here, you can often find lumpia and Filipino treats for sale.
Rue Cler Market Street: A well-known cobblestone street near the Eiffel Tower, rue Cler boasts festive outdoor cafés, fromageries (cheese storefronts), flower shops and bakeries.
Le Refuge des Fondues: Situated at the top of Montmartre, a neighborhood that gives you a taste of old Paris, this place is unlike any other fondue experience — you’re required to climb on top of tables and drink wine out of baby bottles.
Les Cocottes de Christian Constant: Christian Constant is the Wolfgang Puck of France: a master chef with signature restaurants. Les Cocottes offers cozy fine dining with friendly service (a rarity in France) and the best caramel waffle dessert ever. After dinner, walk over to Champ de Mars, the park that surrounds the Eiffel Tower. If you time it right on the hour, you can watch the Tower sparkle.
Le 114: Set on a street where young Parisians go to party, 114 (“cent quatorze” in French) is my favorite place to dance and release that grad school stress. Come in your sneakers and prepare to let go, let loose and have fun!
Find out more about the author at rubyveridiano.com.
— STORY BY RUBY VERIDIANO
This story was originally published in our Summer 2014 issue. Get your copy here!