Last night, I walked by the Galeries Layfette and Printemps (two grand department stores, GL is more historic and a popular tourist destination) in order to see their lighted displays. Crowds of tourists, both French and foreign, gathered by the most decorative window displays, appreciating the animation and whimsy.
Near one of the Printemps windows, not far from the entrance to the RER, a couple stood, kissing. Seriously, deep, intense, kissing. Both halves of this (male/female) couple were fashionably dressed--he in a slim suit, she in a chic, full-skirted coat, stockings and heels--in their forties, and completely unconcerned about their surroundings. I crossed the street to get a better look at the firework-esque light display covering the Printemps building but I also kept my eye on the couple. I thought they might be kissing goodbye and that soon I would see one of them break away and head underground to catch a train.
I waited at least a minute. When they stopped kissing, they smiled at each other, clasped hands and crossed the street. They walked right by me, heading south, away from both the metro and RER.
I walked the block to the nearest metro station and I laughed to myself. This is Paris! People stop to kiss on street in what looks to an American like a fervent goodbye, when, in fact, it's merely because they feel like a kiss. I have never seen this anywhere else--not in all the traveling I did across Europe this year, never in the States, and certainly not in the UK or Turkey. Even though I found it peculiar at first, I am almost used to it now and I think I'll miss the sight when I go home. (As to whether I've taken advantage of the looser social mores regarding public displays of affection, I'll leave that to your imagination.)
Grateful for: affection.