Cultural attitudes to water

When I first arrived in France, I was under the naive assumption that there were similarities between the English and French cultures. I mean, how much difference could a 32km stretch of water make? Answer: a lot.

So how much difference could the 16,925kms of land and water between my hometown and Paris make? Answer: even more.

I grew up on tank water. We were careful with it. 3 minute showers. Baths only after a lot of rain and when we were expecting more. A pump connected to the dam for all non-potable water needs. Water was precious.

The first time I saw street washing in Paris, I called the council and told them there was a burst pipe. I fretted all day about the horrible waste of water I had just seen. Quel horreur !

I still wonder if they sent someone out to look at the “burst pipe” I reported that day, or if they just checked on some kind of log that told them which pipes they had open, allowing enormous quantities of drinking water to gush over over Paris making it “clean”.

Fast-forward 6 years, and I don’t make calls to report burst pipes anymore. And I mostly manage to keep relatively calm when I see litres upon litres flowing freely in the streets.

But the sight I came upon yesterday was simply too much… My inner Australian reared up. “There’s a burst…” But no sooner had the thought formed, than I saw the council worker dressed in green further down the street, merrily using his broom to sweep the cigarettes and various other déchets to their death in the Parisian sewers. Along with all that water.


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