Thursday, December 7, 2006

Questionable Thursdays (it's a long one!)

It's questionable that anyone really cares, but we'll proceed as if we all do. Plus, who would want to put their name on something that dies after a week? Yeah, not me. So this will not die no matter how many times Mr. French has to disguise himself and write his own questions. (We would so not do that.) In honor of those who tried, and asked their burning French questions, here's to you. I'm going to attempt to answer all the questions. And thanks to Charles, who at the very last minute pulled in with a delightful one.

Disclaimer: The following is for your reading pleasure only. All content is to be considered the sole opinion, observation and personal experience of the author who claims the proprietary right to said opinion and is not to be used as research for your book or TV show (unless a financial arrangement is agreed upon by the author prior to said research). The following does not cover and should not be applied to every French person and/or region in France. Enjoy at your own risk.

1. JoyfulJessica writes: "In America, the French are often portrayed as rude and arrogant. Is it so?"

First I'll address rudeness: If you had asked me this question within the first day of our arrival here I would've given you an emphatic "Yes!" There was not one helpful native-appearing person at the Lyon airport. The next day when we were buying something in a boucherie (butchery), Mr. French overheard the guy behind the counter making fun of his attempts at speaking french to the next customer in line. But since that time, there has only been a very small handful of people we have encountered that we would consider rude. Only one of them works in a store. For the most part, store owners (or those that work for them) go out of their way to be helpful.

Especially when you mispronounce something in French. They like to correct you. I don't consider that rude, although it can be annoying. For the most part, French people we have met at the school, the several churches here, and even at the park are kind, generous, and friendly.

Now arrogance is something a little different. I love that the French think their culture, traditions, and language are superior to the rest of the world. I think the same about the United States. I still love to see other countries and to learn how they live differently than I do. I find it fascinating. I think it's natural to have national pride. But it's sort of like parents who talk endlessly about how their kid is the greatest/smartest/funniest/most beautiful. It would be wrong if they thought differently, but they have to know that not everyone is going to agree with them. I think the French are a bit too defensive if you don't agree that their culture is the greatest on earth. That's where the arrogance starts to show.

Mr. French coined a phrase to describe what is frustrating about living here: "Franco-centric Egotism". As if there is no possibility that they could be wrong in their opinion about the superiority of French language and culture.

2. >>>the Voice<<< writes: " What temperature do the French start to put on coats? For instance here it is 50 degrees. What is it there?"

It looks like right now it's in the 30s-40s. Most people here wear a coat now. It's more of an individual preference, of course. The real question that you're getting at is probably when do people tend to put on their coats as the season changes? Or to us, the question was when are they going to turn on the heat?! Here a lot of apartments have radiant heat and they turn the whole thing on for the whole apartment building in one place at the same time. So the talk was always, "Have they turned the heat on at your place yet?" (France is a fascinating country, let me tell you.) We were the last people we knew of to get it turned on. We were starting to get a little worried that we'd stayed in Texas for too long and would never again be able to handle the cold like we used to be able to. The day they turned the heat on, it had gotten down below freezing (outside), around the first of November. That should tell you something.

That's a picture of our "snow-covered mountains". It's kind of hard to see. I'll try to get a better one later.

3. Shawnee John writes: " does the French still use e-mail?" I must say that I think you misjudge the French. Although there's a funny saying that if you ask a Frenchman about some technology, he will try to make you believe that the French invented it. Are you asking whether e-mail is so passé for them that they've moved on to higher forms of communication? Like, telephones? You may be onto something, because you can find a telephone booth on almost every block, but I can't say I've ever seen an internet café in all my time here. The modern technology of the French has always been avant-garde!!!

(Disclaimer: this is a small town, so I'm not in any way trying to suggest the French are behind the times. I'm sure it's perfectly reasonable to assume it should take 4 weeks at the very least to get internet set up in one's home. Yes, indeed!)

4. Charles popped in with the following by e-mail: "Do they have a peculiar odor about them? If so, how would you describe it?"

Interesting you should ask. I think I was a bit naive about this in the beginning. When I visited Scotland and Ireland in the 1990's I noticed that people didn't bathe as often. Well, I didn't really know if this was why many of them smelled, but that was my suspicion. But, it seemed to be relegated to the older people as opposed to those that were my age and so I assumed that this was just a bad habit from back in the day and surely anyone who was born in my time would've left that, well, you know, behind.

Then we came here. Now, when I see an older man with a somewhat unkempt appearance, I think he probably lives alone. So who can really blame him for not bathing daily, or at the very least, more often than weekly? Even with older women it seems understandable. You just try not to breathe in when you reach across to get the sack of potatoes or a tube of mayonnaise. But it's the young Mom with the stroller and the two kids and the black t-shirt that says, "Sexy", that takes you by surprise. You breathe in and then stop. Wait. Who? What? Her? That is That's when you're confronted by the sheer lack of education. Where are the public service announcements?

How about ...

Soap: If we don't use it, we'll lose it.

Deodorant is a terrible thing to waste.

It's not enough to be thin and not have heart disease. We need to smell good too.

If you don't teach your kids to bathe, then the Americans someone else will.

There's a lot of bad haircuts here too, but I think we'll save that one for later.

And thanks to philter for his thoughtful suggestions. I will keep them in mind and hopefully I can get Mr. French himself to try to answer the language topic.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Absolutely hilarious. I know that sometimes you might even forget you are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy, until you breath deeply in a crowded room. I remember when in mother Russia, attending the theatre, noticing the odd smell of the entire hall, even in the WINTER!