There are two things which I noticed in my time in Paris, which never struck me the first time I came here. That time I came for 6 days, like a wide-eyed tourist awestruck by the grandeur and beauty of Paris. It's been more than 2 months here, and since I've been "living" here, it's been a different experience - especially regarding food and race.
There's a huge African population in Paris, and like one encounters South Asians in London, Hispanics in California, it's Africans here. The area I live in is largely African, though a short walk away from the more gentrified Montmartre area. What amazes me is how comfortable they feel. A large number of them continue wearing clothes which I presume they wear back in Africa, but nobody seems to care. It's pretty common to see a big group walk into the metro, talking loudly, wearing clothes completely different from everyone else, and nobody seems to find it weird. Somehow GAP and Benetton haven't affected their sense of fashion, and it's nice to see them walking around wearing whatever they feel like.
The other thing I noticed, which I hardly saw in the US, is the large number of inter-racial couples and groups of friends. Seeing a Black person cuddling up with a white partner in a cafe seems pretty normal, as is seeing a bunch of mixed students in the university hanging out together joking around. It helps that universities are free. Somehow, I never saw such free and open mixing of races anywhere in the US. It wasn't too segregated there and Asian students and professionals mixed fairly well but blacks and hispanics weren't that visible in most places.
Maybe it's because Africans are the largest minority and there aren't as many Hispanics and Asians, and also the fact that I haven't seen anything outside Paris and its suburbs. It's far more relaxed here and I don't get the impression that an African feels out of place anywhere. Their football team is actually quite a just reflection of how comfortable the French (or at least Parisians) are with Africans in their midst. I noticed the diversity the first time I came but never noticed how comfortable everyone feels.
I found the story a bit dismaying. Banning street food in Delhi is one of the most unjust and stupid acts I've read about. Food is something Parisians are religious about, and although the restaurants aren't as diverse as in a big US city, the quality is simply amazing.
There are quite a few McDonald's and Starbucks outlets in Paris, and they seem to be reasonably busy. I remember reading about how Parisians were stoning the first McDonalds but somehow they've accepted its presence. What's interesting is the one near Notre Dame has a small creperie next to it. And next to the Starbucks are about 2-3 other cafes. All of them are busy, and I guess it's a good example of how free markets should work. Banning a particular kind of food, because it doesn't taste good or is unhygienic is stupid. The same judges should be sent to Paris and shown how food is made.
What makes the food so great is the rawness. The average Crepe maker never wears gloves and has no problems wiping his brow and then rolling the crepe. It's the same in all the food markets, and there are tonnes of them everywhere. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be found everywhere, within walking distance of every neighbourhood, as well as small boulangeries, patisseries, fromageries and boutcheries. If you buy anything from there, there's no obsession with hygiene nor are things packaged excessively. Some of the markets seem as dirty as chaotic as one would encounter in India. There are big supermarkets, but like the McDonalds and small creperie, they seem to being doing alright inspite of each other's presence next to each other.
My corner boulangerie worker knows I live 2 mins from there and gives me my bread with a small piece of paper wrapped around it. Since I live on my own, my intake of fruits, vegetables and meat is small, and I prefer to pick up small amounts every other day than head to a huge supermarket and stock up for 2 weeks. It's possible to pick up 2 or 3 types of fruits, some vegetables and pay the guy who's standing outside talking to his friend, in cash, without getting a receipt or a bag. If my French was better, I could try haggling, but I find things so cheap after the US, that I don't care. Inspite of the lack of attention paid to hygiene, I haven't had any health problems.