Leslie BurkeComment

French Faux Pas

Leslie BurkeComment
French Faux Pas

Everyone loves to wax poetic about how amazing France is and they wish to move there one day. I love to be the bearer of bad news, so I think I should fill everyone in on some cultural differences that can become quite annoying for a brown girl from Brooklyn. When you have grown up in the city that never sleeps and survived NY during the 80's (unlike most people, I was actually born in a hospital in Brooklyn and lived here my entire life), it can be hard to adjust to anything different. I know native NYers that have moved to California years ago and are still adjusting. I double checked this list with the Frenchie to be sure I am not being overly stereotypical.

1. Double Bises. This is the practice of kissing someone on each side of their cheek when greeting them. In the south, this can be three kisses - left, right then left again. I have heard rumors there are regions that even do four! Bises are makeup destroyers and as a brown girl I literally often leave my mark on anyone I faire la bise with so I am really hoping to find a germ excuse to get out of this if I live there. Hugs just feel better anyway, especially since I have great boobs.

2. Terraces and Beggars. I haven't been to France in winter, but it seems that even in 50 degree weather people are committed to eating on the terrace. I will never understand this! Not only is it cold, there are bugs but also every homeless person uses this as an excuse to beg from you. If you try to pretend you don't understand French, they also speak English. No one can say the French are not educated since education is far more affordable there.

3. Business Hours. Don't try to make sense of any business hours in any French city, especially Paris but more so true in smaller cities such as Toulouse or Bordeaux. If its the lunch hour, its very likely they are closed for two hours for the employee to eat. If its Sunday, its likely they are closed for the day of rest. If its 6pm, they are likely closed as the employee must go home. If its 9am, it is likely they are closed because its too early. In general, I get the impression the French care more about the employee not working too much and less about actually doing business. Apparently if a store is open too late, the government taxes them up to 50% of the revenue after hours. Just wow!

4. Queuing. The French have no respect for a line. While taking the metro with the Frenchie, a man pushed me out of the way to steal the metro fare from him by exiting with my man. While boarding the aircraft, a man shoved his way in front of me trying to board behind my man to beat me not knowing we were together. I yelled at him in English and he backed off. While waiting for the metro during rush hour, men would just jump in front of me to secure their own space on the crowded train. This is where you have to be a bit of Brooklyn. If you let the French have their way, you will never win being polite with a line.

5. Unimpressed. I don't know if its the hard grading system in French schools or the too cool attitude but a French person will never get excited about anything or say anything is amazing. For my love and I, when we enjoy an amazing meal his description is "not bad" and mine is "amazing!" - these equate to the same thing for him. We agree to disagree that Americans are just too generous with compliments and French are guarded. To this day my favorite compliment was from a French women in the metro telling me I was gorgeous and my outfit was "super". I know this was a big deal because French women just don't give out compliments, especially to strangers.

P.S. I am looking out from one of my favorite French places, the balcony.