Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Friday, February 17, 2006

An Asian in Paris

I did something shamelessly Asian (the ‘’negative side’’ of Asian-ness): I participated in the legendary long queues outside the Louis Vuitton store at Ave. George V. Japanese, Hong Kongers and rich Singaporeans are known to be the worshippers of this store and do regular pilgrimages to this store whenever they visit Paris. In fact, for some, it’s the main reason for going to Paris. Some Western tourists stared curiously and snapped pictures of the queue. I turned away, not wanting to be caught in the stupid act.

What made me do such a thing like queuing in the cold to enter a store (for me it is like war-time rationing for food!) I will never understand. I have been to Paris so many times and I have never thought of doing so. Heck – I don’t even like LV products!

Maybe it’s for the fun of it. Maybe I just happened to be walking towards the Arc de Triomphe and decided to ‘’drop by’’ along the way. Maybe I thought I should do it ‘’just once’’ for the experience, since this may be my last trip to Paris. Who knows what will happen when my company eventually merges with the other company this summer?

So I stood for ages at the queue. When I first joined it, it was really short and I had not expected the wait to be so long and that the queue would get longer and longer.

The guard at the door would let people in only when some shoppers leave the store, which was not even crowded! (I am sure it was a ploy to create the idea of ‘’high demand’’ of the store) But later, the guard saw the growing crowd and decided to let more people in.

I went in and could not find anything to like. I simply cannot comprehend why some people can like the real ugly designs and the even uglier and crass repetition of the LV logo all over their products. Does one need to do free advertising for the brand, or to tell the world that they can afford an LV? True, they say it’s ‘’quality’’ and that each piece is ‘’hand-made’’. Well, a lot of less expensive brands are ‘’hand-made’’ and even made by the very same factory and craftsmen of these ‘’exclusive brands’’!

I tried to appreciate a pair of shoes and asked for my size. The salesgirl took her own sweet time – she was in no hurry – I am not her well-heeled regular customer. ‘’Let me clear the glass for my regular client and bring her a cup of tea first,’’ she must be thinking as she removed the glass on the table and went to fetch some tea. After an eternity she came back to say they did not have the size I wanted.

So I walked out. The guard must be so surprised I was the only one who left the store so soon and completely empty-handed. ‘’Au revoir’’, he greeted me with some curiosity.

Sorry boss. I tried to shop and buy something very ‘’French’’ like an LV and contribute to your country’s economy, but I don’t have Asian taste, lah.

You see, my boss Remi had excellent timing. Just as I was checking out of the hotel in Barcelona, he rang to tell me the amount of 2005’s year-end bonus I was about to receive end of this month. It was an ‘’impressive’’ amount that ‘’not many people can get’’ and he had ‘’pushed very hard for it’’, he said. I thanked him for the good news and he said, ‘’now, I think you can do some shopping in Paris!’’

Actually, what I treasure most whenever I travel to foreign lands is to be able to meet up with friends living there. To drop by for tea with Anissa in Shanghai, coffee with Winny in Jakarta, drinks with Kayoko in Tokyo, dim-sum with Agnes in Hong Kong, seafood with Andrew in Sydney, dinner with Gordon in London, and now, a cosy home-cooked dinner with Anne and Philippe, who live near La Defense.

I still remember trekking with Anne at Mt Allauch in Aubagne last year, and the compote she taught me how to make. This trip, she has moved to Paris, is pregnant and not as agile. Still, she made us a nice warm meal. But I was struggling to keep alive during dinner. Surely it was not the wine, but my headache, and inexplicable tiredness that overwhelmed me.


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