Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Five Things I Have Learnt About the French So Far

I am finally past the initial storm of jetlag, getting acquainted with relatives I am meeting for the first time and starting to adjust to a whole different way of life – yay!  And here I would like to jot down my initial impressions of the wonderful French, while acknowledging that it is very early in my walkabout and reserving all rights to modify these observations at will. 

1.     Everything is Done at Leisure.  Maybe it’s the highly socialized socio-economic system, maybe it’s the entrenched French laissez faire and joie de vivre philosophies of life…but everyone does everything leisurely.  No matter how long the line at Starbucks, the barista will slowly, carefully, joyfully make each cup of coffee, and the cashier will take her time ringing you up and moving on to the next customer.  It seriously takes about an hour to move through a line here, the same line that would take about 20 minutes in the States.  There is no such thing as a harassed looking clerk running around trying to pacify multiple customers.  The phrase “the customer is king” does not exist.  Banish it from your mind. If the store reaches its hour of closing as you walk in, it’s too bad for you, you will be unceremoniously ushered out.  And, by the way, stores close every Sunday, possibly Monday and early in the evenings. 

2.     The French Speak Very Softly in Public, Even the Children.  No wonder they think Americans are loud and brash and spoil their children.  On the subways, in restaurants, in department stores, anywhere in public, people speak softly or not at all.  To my great delight, I have yet to see a screaming child or one having a temper tantrum (or, even worse, a parent yielding to it).  My girlfriends and I, who excitedly chat loudly and burst out in loud laughter all the time, would be completely disdained here. 

3.     Skinny Jeans are The Rule of the Day.  Women wear extremely skinny jeans here, I have yet to see a local wear anything else – although, the weather has been unseasonably cool so far.  All women, regardless of age, wear them. And, I have to say, Parisian women overall dress very modestly.  The scantily clad ones are usually the tourists. I have succumbed to the pressure and bought a pair of skinny jeans myself.  However, there is another group of people who wear even skinnier jeans than the women.

4.    French Men Are Really Thin and Wear Super Tight Skinny Jeans.  The beefcake does not exist in France.  I quite possibly have more built arms than the majority of Parisian men.  Gym culture is not French and for a city so large, there are only a few gyms.  Not only are the men thin, they wear extremely narrow cut clothing, especially jeans.  If I were doing laundry for my boyfriend and I, I would first be delighted that my jeans are so small then realize they are my boyfriend’s.  The guys’ jeans fit super tight over their pelvic area and I have secretly named them FRPs [Fertility Reducing Pants]. 

5.     It May be True That the French Have an Elastic Concept of Monogamy.  I was informed by many French expats in the States before I left that Europeans don’t really believe in strict monogamy even when married.  I thought this may be a vestigial belief of a prior generation until I got here.  I am hit on left and right by random French men who have no qualms about hitting on a strange girl in public; in the States, men nervously preface their come-on with a self-conscious “I don’t normally do this…”  But the men here brazenly hit on you and nothing deters their professed desire to have deen-ehr with you.  I’ve told them that I have a boyfriend, I am married, I am a nun.  In response, I’ve gotten, I have a girlfriend too, it’s no matter to me, which order do you belong to (I am dead serious on this one).

The French have been extremely kind to me, especially considering that I presently know nothing of the language beyond hello, thank you, please and good-night.  Admirably, most Parisians speak marvelous English.  A few times I have been stymied by a situation and rescued by a complete stranger.  Tourists can be annoying, but if you see one in need of help, please be kind as well…it’s great karma.

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