Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
“It ain’t easy.” They kind of look like us, but they aren’t like us…or should I say, we aren’t like them.
Who am I talking about? The French, of course.
The cultural differences between our American culture and their French one get more acute the longer I’m here. You’d think it would be the other way ’round, but no. Perhaps it just that the same situations seem to happen over and over again with nothing changing — not their behavior nor our acceptance of them.
When an American woman recently told me she had met the man of her dreams and was now engaged to him and moving to France, I immediately asked, “Is he French?”
“Yes, why do you ask?” she wondered. And then I gave her a reading assignment: Polly Platt’s last book before she died, “Love à la Française: What Happens when Hervé Meets Sally.”
“In ‘Love à la Française,’ she delves into the intimate lives of Anglo-Saxons who actually lived the dream and moved to Paris – for good, for better or worse — as wives of French men. Why? To live in the city that celebrates women, where they could discover the meaning of being women, and being completely themselves, whoever they might turn out to be. But French men with their thousand-year experience in enchanting French women are not always in tune with Anglo-Saxons and vice versa. Why do some American women in Paris fail while others bloom and thrive? And how do happy transplants manage their success? After dozens of interviews and in-depth case studies, Polly Platt reveals the secrets of Love à la Française.” (Amazon.com)
Of course, lots manage to make it — like author Harriet Welty Rochefort and her husband, Philippe, who have out-performed most mixed marriages by decades and not only lived to tell about it, but recount it as part of her many books about living in France and their blog…but I know so many who haven’t, just because one sees the glass as half full while the other sees it half empty.
Even the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Région Paris Ile-de-France (CCIR) is trying to overcome the cultural divide with their campaign, “Do You Speak Touriste?” Tourists come to France and run smack dab into the face of cultural clash and don’t even know it. I’ve seen it dozens of times and I still personally run into it, even with almost 20 years of experience.
On the site, they outline how Americans want to be treated. Want to get a laugh? According to the CCIR, the French think that we Americans need to be reassured about the rates being charged, that we eat dinner at 6 p.m., that a waiter should offer up his name and that we are ‘technophiles’ so we can’t live without WiFi.
Is this true? Perhaps!
Last Sunday I met my ex-husband for a coffee (believe it or not!) and suggested we meet at Café Charlot, one of my neighborhood ‘cantines.’ It was too packed when he arrived to find a table so he landed at a table across the street at another café. I was disappointed because I am boycotting that particular café. Without another word, he asked, “What happened? Were they just being ‘French?'”
Yes! Once a long time ago a waiter yelled at me for bringing in a fresh croissant from the bakery next door, then gave me change consisting of pennies and shortchanged me by one euro. That’s what! So, I never darkened their door again even after 15 years of loyal patronage.
House Hunters International called me to do another show in Nice at the last minute — simply because they were running into the same cultural clash trying to get real estate agents and property owners to open up their hearts and their homes to allow them to film inside. “Don’t they realize it’s good publicity?”
No! They don’t want the publicity! Aren’t we shocked to discover this? It’s the age old conflict of their need to protect and our need to promote. They are busy protecting their privacy while we want the whole world to see who we are.
In an article published this past February in The Local: France’s News in English, titled “Language barrier: French resistance to Franglais,” they examine “efforts to shield the French language from the invasion of Franglais.” It uses the words “promote” and “protect” (the French language) in the same sentence, thinking that while they are protecting the French language, they can actually promote it at the same time…in this case by inventing new French words such as “courriel” to replace “email,” “spamming” and “hacker” to be replaced by “arrosage” and “fouineur,” etc.
Good luck on that one! It’s all so fascinating, though — we could talk about this subject endlessly. Everyone I know has a zillion stories to retell of cultural clash encounters that leave us bewildered. Why are we who we are? Why are they who they are? Why can’t we see the same half-full or half-empty glass from the same perspective?
I have my theories, but don’t get me started, but I will tell you that it happens from birth on both sides of the Atlantic and there’s nothing we can do about it, but try to understand it.
Meanwhile, I am leaving for Nice on Friday to be filming all day Saturday and Sunday, and I still need some willing property owner with a home or apartment in Nice or any of the neighboring communities with three bedrooms or more who would be willing to open their hearts and their property to allow HGTV film in it for just a few hours. If you have (or know of someone who is) please email me immediately!: [email protected]
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris & Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
(photo by Erica Simone)
P.S. If you’re considering investing in Paris or on the Riviera like I have, the Adrian Leeds Group can help you find your perfect apartment or home…for rent or purchase! My team of rental professionals can assist you in finding an apartment or home in Paris, Nice and environs based on your specific preferences, budgets and needs. For details or to book our services, visit French Property Consultation or email [email protected].