mercredi 26 janvier 2011

Globalization in a Paris Suburb: an Anthropological View

Paris Suburbs: Shopping for Everyday Goods

Globalization at Work

This morning I went shopping in one of the western suburbs of Paris and it was truly a lesson in Globalization and also on the movement of people.

Over 200 million people in this world live in countries, which are not theirs by birth, the largest migration seen since early 1900s when Europeans were flocking to USA Canada Australia New Zealand Chile Brazil Argentina. One in seven Australian and One in three Portenos is of Italian Origin to give the extent of that migration. Over 70 million Italian immigrants and their descendants live outside Italy currently. Lebanon is another great Emigrant Nation.

The tide has changed. I clearly remember a cartoon from the Punch when I was student in London. A plush mansion. A lord in Residence. A man dressed in typical Indian clothes of yester years is at the door, waiting to be ushered in. The butler goes up to Lord Clive (of India, a great Governor General during the East India Company rule) and says: Milord, a gentleman from Calcutta is here to see you!

In Paris, gentlemen and fully covered ladies are not from Calcutta from Mali and Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, Congo and Rwanda and others places in Africa. The East Indian presence is small since the French only had minor colonies in India: Pondicherry and some towns.

I walked over to the open-air market where I like to buy fruits and vegetables. I usually go to a grower or a representative of a farmer rather than a middleman who is trading on someone’s behalf.

Today the man in attendance was a young French man. He recommended Mona Lisa potatoes at 1.45 euros/kg and Royal Gala apples at 2.95 euros/kg. I paid him 5 euros for the purchase. (Calculating 1 euro=USD 1.4)

Walked over the Boulangerie Artisanal, and requested a baguette. The Algerian gentleman behind the counter sold one to me for 1 euro.

Walked past a Colombian/Spanish restaurant, an Italian home made pizza shop, a Chinese take away ( traiteur asiatique as they are called), on to a street which has a Moroccan take away, a Turkish restaurant and a Sushi place, usually owned by Chinese migrants from the mainland. At the Moroccan place, I looked at the menu, thought temptingly about the Couscous Lamb but today just bought a Salade with Surimi and some Moroccan sweets. A bottle of San Pellegrino (Italy) water was included in the deal for 7 euros.

My destination was the Chinese owned fruit shop where I always get a warm smile, unlike the usual Chinese owners who seem to carry a perpetual frown. But we had no language to communicate with. With great difficulty I wished him Gong Xi Fatt Choy, he had no idea what I was saying, I tried Spring Festival, New Year of the Rabbit, but he just returned a toothy smile. At least I tried. Litchis from Madagascar at 1.95 euros/kg and Bananas from Martinique at 1.85 euros/kg, for a total of 4.45 euros.

The shopping bag was becoming heavier but I decided to walk a little in search for Chai Tea. At the entrance to the Marche Exotique (Exotic Market), a crowded store of imported things from India and other warm climes, I was greeted by an elderly Tamoul gentleman. To another young man in the store, there were no customers, I asked him in French, Do you have any Chai Tea. He nodded his head to the part of the shelf where teas were held and of course no Chai Tea. I decided to get some Green tea with Mint made by Lipton’s, 20 bags packed nicely for 1.95 euros.

I thought of the ridiculousness of using a language, which does not belong to neither of us, just one generation ago, my father might have been able to converse with the old man in Tamoul!

One habit I have acquired in Paris is the taste for Champagne and there is always a bottle in the fridge but with that taste has come a love of white wines in general, my delicate stomach acquiesces to white of the Bacchus less so of his red gifts. Went inside Nicolas, a chain store that sells moderately priced wines like the ones they have in London. I opted for two suave whites, a sauvignon Blanc from Chile 2009 and a Torrontes (very different taste than its motherland, Spain) from Norton in Mendoza, Argentina. Both bottles together cost only 8.70 euros, each bottle costing slightly more than a kilogram of apples! Drinking and Eating is of excellent quality in France, and drinking is definitely cheaper! The woman behind the counter was French.

So a short expedition in shopping this morning was like a visit to various parts of the world, east and the west, north and the south.

Viola! This is the France of Today and this same story is repeatedly in all of Europe. The conquered ones from the colonies have sent their descendants to seek revenge, and a certain silent peace seems to reign, without excessive cordiality.

Above is what 26 euros would bring you, i.e. 36 dollars would buy you in a Paris suburb of today, but the experience is priceless to an anthropologist.