Marseille France – one year expat impressions

First of all I must mention the fact that I did not live in France, but in Marseille, a city that even many French people say it is not exactly France, and for good reasons. It’s been a year since I first came here with my work. The city is one of strong contrasts, in the center you have the natural harbor and  lovely tourist area of Vieux Port , and just 2 streets away from it, you have Noailles Square, a congested smelly area, full of African minorities, where you hear more Arabic than French. In this place where smuggled cigarettes are sold openly on the street, you feel more like in Morocco and Algeria than in France. Moving away from the city center, we reach the Southern districts where we have the superb Mediterranean areas of Prado and Point Rouge. This wealthy areas come with parks, beaches  and the Calanques mountains view in the background. Coming back to the center of town, if you walk just to the North of Saint Charles Station, you are afraid to keep walking on the street.

Coming from Romania, I didn’t think much of seeing homeless people on the street or sleeping in the tram stops, begging at street corners or minorities hanging around at the entrances of the subway, drinking beer and smoking pot. But even so, the large number of them concentrated in the city center exceeds any expectations, even compared to Romania! I think from the perspective of a tourist or of a Frenchman from another more “French” city, the urban landscape here must be something unreal.

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