Saturday, June 6, 2009
Introducing les NoPos ... Les Nouveaux Pauvres
If you've lived in Paris for any period of time, you've probably come across "les bobos" - that peculiar breed of Parisian who, despite their bourgeois background make an active effort to live as bohemians. Hence the moniker 'bobo' - les bourgeois bohemes.
These are people who have had an excellent education, a comfortable upbringing and hold down good jobs with respectable salaries yet who prefer to cloak themselves in a veneer of bohemia to improve their street cred. There's nothing cool or even remotely artistically credible about having parents in the 16th arrondissement and a family holiday home in Cap Ferret. And so they slum it in ateliers and lofts in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and wearing designer trainers with their H&M jeans.
For as long as there will be aristocrats in France (and let's face it, despite a big-ass revolution back in 1789 and a concerted campaign of head lopping, the aristos are alive and well in la belle France), there will be "bobos". But since the global financial meltdown, a new subset in French society has emerged. A subset of which I am proud to be a member.
They're called "les nopos", or les nouveaux pauvres (the new poor). Unlike les bobos, whose down-at-heel lifestyles are a denial of their healthy bank accounts, les nopos lead lives of indulgence they simply cannot afford. Their bank managers may be phoning every other day, their credit cards may have been cancelled and their daily lives may be a tightrope walk across the abyss of bankruptcy, but they continue to lead lives of relative excess, working on the theory they may be dead tomorrow.
Les nopos as a social construct were first brought to my attention by my good friend, the ever stylish Esther Loonen. As well as being one of Paris' most celebrated new children's fashion designers (Lili And The Funky Boys), Esther and her hubby, Jules are the Showgirl's and mine partners in newly impoverished Parisian crime. Despite the ever present spectre of financial disaster, we forge ahead, eating at a restaurant here, organising a modest little European mini-break there. It's not exactly Marie-Antoinette, let-them-eat-cake excess (that's the exclusive preserve of people who actually do have money to fall back on, and besides, our deeply instilled Protestant work ethic would never allow for that kind of completely irresponsible behaviour), but there is a certain cavalier fatalism to it all.
Sure, the pile of available euros seems to dwindle with every passing day. Yes, unemployment in the Euro zone has climbed to an historic high. Of course, working as a writer in one of the world's most expensive cities while supporting a wife and child is akin to madness. But what are you going to do? Sit around at home eating lentils? Spend the day nervously watching movement of the global stock markets? Life is short. If you're going to take time each day to count anything at all, it should be your blessings, not your savings.
No, global economic crisis or not, I refuse to be bowed. I reject the recession. I am a proud, card-carrying member of les nouveaux pauvres. Vive les nopos!
Now, where did I put that Greek Island travel brochure?