January, 2009: I think is my last post. At least, I think so. It’s not like I don’t have more to say about France. I could write every day about what makes us different, how we’re the same, what makes French culture special, what little things are different about how they spend their days, and why their baguettes taste better. (We’re not brave enough to make them thinner–we’re obsessed with quantity and must make them thick. And that’s just…bread.)
But for now, I want to savor my experience differently. I blogged when I was there, and now I’m remembering instead of living, still trying to conjugate the danm verbs, and having days when I vividly recall the little and big things I loved that we’ve let go or never had. For example: My coffee shop here in Fairfield, where I’ve gone every day since moving here, now has a sign saying, “We’ll be happy to take your order when you’re done with your phone call.”
I was very sad to see that sign. The 21-year-old woman behind the counter, when I mentioned that it was a shame the sign was necessary, sighed the sigh of someone much older and beat down as she noted that some people “really are rude.”
I liked living in a place where relationships, even with strangers, mattered.
And I don’t even like people. But I liked knowing that everyone treated everyone else with respect, just because you were human. Not that there weren’t exceptions–there are jerks everywhere–but in general, in France, people are worthy of eye contact, of a “thank you,” and of real conversation instead of grunting and pointing while you schedule an appointment with your stylist or gossip with a girlfriend.
And now, I expect more. Maybe that’s my 2009: Leading by example, showing others in line at the coffee shop what it means to engage the college student making my espresso in conversation, even if it’s just a boring remark about the weather or wishing her a great day. Helping them realize that she’s got classes, and a mom, and a car payment, and is stressed about her grandfather’s illness, and may not get a job beyond this one when she graduates.
We Americans seem to revel in calling the French famously rude, but I think we need to look in the mirror.
But on a positive note, we adore their food, and they admire us in a million ways. We are destined for many more decades of our love/hate relationship. I can’t wait.