This is what my friend Bridget used to say whenever someone tried to interrupt her during a story. It cracked me up every time (even if I was usually the culprit trying to interrupt). And also reminded me of some of the fundamental differences between Americans and the French.
I figured the phrase would be appropriate today since I’m going to *ahem* tell a story. Wednesday’s post prompted a couple questions about
1- 1. how I came to live in France and
2- 2. what’s it like to live there?
Answer to #1- I studied abroad my junior year of college. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds. Basically I took one semester of French my sophomore year- decided I wanted to be bilingual and applied to the program. I got accepted and a couple loan applications later- was on my way!
I didn’t really grow fluent until eight months into the program when I left (okay, fine. I was kicked out of ) the apartment with my American friends and started dating the drummer of my French rock group. Three months later we flew back to the U.S. as a ‘party of three’ – me, my hubby, and our first daughter who was already in the works. Hubby and I eloped so he could stay in the country. He studied at the English program for foreign students while I tried to wrap up my senior year of college. When our daughter was born in February, I realized trying to finish a 21 credit semester with a newborn was damn near impossible. School work piled up along with hours of missed sleep and I finally decided ‘this isn’t working’. We moved back to France in May 2004 and have been living here ever since.
Answer to #2- Living in France did take some getting used to. I honesty could take up pages and pages (I would write a book if it hadn’t been done a million times before) on how the French live. So, I guess I’ll just give the BIG differences:
Americans like to entertain each other through every means imaginable. It’s not just music, movies and television. Americans like to entertain with their every word, story, or mannerism. It becomes ingrained in how we move, act, and speak. Honestly, I miss this. I miss our humor.
The French don’t feel the need to entertain. They don’t talk just to hear themselves. When they communicate it’s for one simple reason- communication. They don’t try and be funny (which doesn’t mean they never are- but it’s a different kind of humor). A great example of this is French film. There are no just plain funny French movies. It’s all ‘dark comedy’ or ‘dramatic comedy’. The French are all about interpretation.
American’s don’t have time to cook like most other countries cook. Canned soup recipes have held on from their post world war glory days and Americans love savory stews and casseroles that are reminiscent of the calories we used to need when we were all frontiersmen or farmers that we really don’t need now that most of us are behind a desk all day. The desire for the big meat and potato meals has stayed- but the time to prepare them has waned. So in comes the crock pots, or the prepared frozen breaded chicken breasts, hamburger helper, frozen veggies, etc…
In France- health care is free (or paid for, rather, by the government) which means they WANT their citizens as healthy as possible. French are prompted by their national news to eat by the seasons. We always know what’s being harvested, where, and when to expect it in our grocery store. We know what wines and cheeses have hit their aging date and what meats they should be consumed with. While there are plenty of old time recipes (most often prepared in a pressure cooker rather than a crock pot to save on time and electricity) that have a crème or butter base- there’s a large preference for Mediterranean style cooking with olive oil and fresh produce.
Other tid bits:
While French don’t like to entertain, they are fabulous at throwing temper tantrums. From strikes out on the street, to creating a scandal at the post office- throwing a tantrum is how to get what you want in France. Things not going your way? Get loud. Either that or a sob story. French love a good sob story. Again…it’s all about interpretation.
The French have a road rage that rivals almost any other country. It’s like driving does something to their brains that turns even the most gentle and level headed individual into a raving, angry lunatic that spews obscenities with every breath.
In contrast to the above (because the French are often walking talking contradictions) -the French are much more polite than we give them credit for. Actually, I’m convinced that the stereotype of them being ‘rude’ is due to this over politeness. When you walk into any commerce in France, the common protocol is to say ‘hello’ to the person behind the counter and ‘goodbye’ when you leave. When you ask someone for help you begin with ‘Hello, I’m sorry to bother you but…’- You probably aren’t really bothering them, it’s their job. But if you don’t say your sorry about it, they’ll act like you are bothering them. If you don’t say hello when you enter, they won’t speak to you the whole time you’re there or will be crisp and cold because you are the ‘rude’ American who didn’t say ‘hello’ or just burst out their question without the proper introduction. In the French’s eyes- we’re the rude ones and they’re just reacting to it.