Hi, I’m Simon, I grew up in Yorkshire, England before embarking on a life of a wandering singing troubadour across lands far and wide before laying my hat in Lyon 10 years ago to write my book “How to almost make a living as a musician”. I’ll be your friendly guide bringing you sound advice on where to feast your ears on all the best things musical happening in our great city.
I’ve spent the last 10 years living in Lyon and one of the first things I noticed upon my arrival was its sense of harmony and generally civilised nature. It’s a strongly multi-cultural city located at what was once an important historical European crossroads and is today one of the best examples I’ve ever experienced in my travels of people just simply getting along with each other.
I spent the first 20 years of my life growing up in Northern England, a place which I love but which is unfortunately plagued by problems of violence related to its mix of cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. It was this often aggressive atmosphere that led to Ken Loach making several important films and as for me, well I left.
I went on to spend the next 20 years living in various places around the United States and again despite the majority of Americans being wonderful people I was deeply disappointed by its still very divided and segregated society. The problems and conflict resulting from America’s racial and cultural diversity are well documented and it’s a tragedy they continue to this day.
When I came to Lyon I instantly felt a sensation of peace and tolerance. I felt safe walking around any part of the city at any time of day or night. No-one seems angry in Lyon and the most violent act I have ever witnessed here was a heated argument in a bar which led to someone throwing a plastic ashtray on the floor. I was particularly impressed when an altercation involving a couple of drunk guys in my local café was countered and effectively subdued by everyone in there delivering a soft chorus of “Shhhhhh”. It was remarkable and appealed instantly to my essentially hippy values of peace and love and since then Lyon has been my home.
“France is known for it’s generous and fair welfare system and it’s definitely worth the price of the taxes that pay for it”.
Why is Lyon such a harmonious place? Well I have a number of theories. Take the area of “Les Pentes de La Croix Rousse”. It’s a steep slope of apartments, adorable cafés and boutiques and one of the most densely populated urban areas in Europe with approximately 35,000 people living in 48 hectares or a density equivalent to 70,000 people per square kilometre.
That’s a huge amount of people living very close together and so there is basically no choice but to be respectful of each other. No-one could ever get away with acting like an idiot on a Friday night because you would instantly be in full view of hundreds of people opening their windows and telling you to “knock it off”. It’s safe at night because you’re never alone. The police don’t keep the peace, the locals do.
France is known for it’s generous and fair welfare system and it’s definitely worth the price of the taxes that pay for it because it creates a society that gives everyone a chance. Public transport is efficient and affordable, the fabulous markets mean that food is relatively cheap and while housing can be expensive in some areas there are always inexpensive apartments somewhere.
The conditions of life are good in Lyon. People are polite and respectful of each other and it’s a soft and gentle city that cares about everyone. It has strong family values and there are lots of public spaces. There are beautiful parks and educational and entertaining museums. There is always something to do, even if you don’t have much money. Rich or poor, Lyon is for everyone.
Diversity is the “norm” in Lyon. There is such a wonderful mix of people from all cultures, economic backgrounds and religious beliefs that it’s accepted that we’re all different and yet also we’re all the same in that we’re just humans trying to get by and live a happy life.
I worry that the world today is becoming more and more divided and people are living in fear of cultures they don’t understand. Come to Lyon and see how modern society can be. Witness the harmony, tolerance and respect that humans are capable of showing each other and as Elvis Costello rightly once put into song, “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?”