Take this post with the following grain: my perspective is that of a 5-day tourist. I do not claim to have unlocked the secrets of a society, I’m merely communicating my impressions.
It was nearly impossible to find wifi in Paris. Cafe after cafe just didn’t have it. For a traveler who uses the many useful little apps and tricks for navigating, choosing restaurants, and finding the best detours off the beaten path, this can be a real disaster. However, I’ve always been the one with the beat-up map grabbed from one of those free tourist info stands in her purse. I like to do my research about a city by scrolling through blogs and forums, jot it all furiously on a blank page of my travel notebook, and then blunder my way around, accepting that I’d only accomplish about 1/8 of the things I had planned. I once drew a grid map of Soho and plotted the points of all the stores I wanted to visit so that I wouldn’t have to bother with addresses and could just count blocks. I didn’t even end up getting to use my map because there was so much else to see and do in NYC.
It wasn’t just just the lack of wifi in Paris that charmed me. Everything seemed relaxed and old-fashioned. Stores opened late and closed early; people in cafes smoked cigarettes and observed passers-by instead of playing with their phones (although there was a fair amount of phone-play as well); women wore decorative hats; men smoked pipes on the sidewalks; flowers shops and old-timey toy stores abounded; people in the subway actually read books.
All of this gave me some hope that my stunted social networking use might not make me as uncool as I had previously imagined.
Thank goodness for Paris, right?
P.S. For a real taste of old-fashioned goodness in Paris, check out The Abbey Bookshop. Truly worth a visit if you are ever in the neighborhood!