Did you know that I am vacationing in Europe? Sweet! My junior year in high school I set a goal to make this trip, so I got a job and saved money. Budgeting is one of the most useful skills I have acquired from my mum. As expected, a multitude of my peers’ Euro trips were over the summer after graduation. I worked that summer and a couple years later, here I am.
For the first few nights I have been staying with my mum in this little Hotel Nord et Champagne. Authentic is the first word that comes to mind. And I’m not talking about the surrounding quaint restaurants that serve snails like they’re cheese. I slept in a bed below the window, which we would keep open during the rains. Falling asleep there was wonderful.
A full submersion in the culture taught me a few things. There is a misconception that the French dislike Americans. I experienced tourists whose expectations were not met and automatically created this stereotype. I spent an hour on a train listening to an American couple that complained endlessly about gypsies and sanitation… the list goes on. The thing is that the citizens of France lead lives just as any other citizen in the world. Every culture is different, and I hope you would agree that the unique perspectives could teach observers a lot about life in general.
For example, I was caught off guard when a woman accidentally bumped into me on the streetand kept bookin’ it. In Tucson, I have learned to always apologize and excuse myself in similar situations. But getting around to thinking about it, people living in a city as industrious as Paris don’t have time to talk to every single person they might brush arms with. Very much like NYC. Is that rude, or its it practical? Once I conversed with more locals, I realized it was practical.
One of the more strange things I noticed was that others were very uncomfortable and/or avoided eye contact. Oddly enough, I find this to be practical as well. In America, greeting a person is nonchalant and impersonal. You ask how their day is going, and expect a straightforward response. “Good, and yourself?” If “Ummm, well I had a difficult time getting the kids out of bed this morning and because they were late for school, I am going to have to call an administrator,” were your response, it would make the stereotypical American feel awkward. Perhaps just as awkward as the people I tried to make eye contact with in France.
There is so much judgment passed and unfriendly encounters make others feel equally dissatisfied. Interestingly enough, speaking English was another sore spot. But I relate the situation to the frustration with immigration laws in America. How irritated do you get when a person is speaking Spanish solely? Same situation- I am visiting their home and I shouldn’t expect them to conform to American culture. If the citizens of the world could take a step back and think about the respect others deserve, perhaps there would be less discord.