Dear Madame K,
Just love your blog! I'm reading a book on cultural misunderstandings, written by a French anthropologist, and was wondering if you could share your overall insights into the Good, the Bad, and Ugly of adjusting to French culture in one encompassing list ( well, you know what I mean?). I've got this thing about France and the French way of life seems so inviting.
Thanks a bunch,
Dear Janet Jackson,
I started to reply to your question, but then realized that it was turning into a short memoire of my years in France. There is no way to compile all that experience, observation, and analysis into one list. I’m starting to think that perhaps me mum is right. I should write a book.
So instead I’ve just narrowed it down to the basics:
I’ve thought about this one really hard and the only ‘good’ thing I can think of in terms of adjusting to French culture is well, the food. Oh and let’s not forget the wine. It’s no secret that I’m a Foodie, but I certainly didn’t start out in life that way. For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in the Midwest. Des Moines, Iowa is not exactly a food culture hot spot unless you consider a jumbo corndog to be a gourmet dish. It wasn’t until I moved to France that my love affair with food began. Especially with cakes. I’m not much of a cheese fan, but oh pastries, how I adore thine elegantly crusty texture and long to take thy fluffy cream into my mouth. Yep, cake porn.
Anyway, I could go on and on about how much I love French food and how cool it is that you can get ripped at lunch on a bottle of wine and nobody threatens to send you to an AA meeting, but before you get all carried away, I’ll leave you with this bit of tragic info. Since moving to France, I have gained 50 pounds. So, there ya go. Everything comes with a price.
Again, it’s hard to make a list, so I’ll just tell you a bit about my struggles during my first year in France---because the first year is the hardest. First and foremost unless you are exceptionally talented with languages, you will be confused and overwhelmed in the midst of all those irregular verbs and all those
nonsensical clever French expressions. And you will be humbled time and time again by those who are inpatient with your weak language skills.
When you are finally able to understand and speak a bit of French, guess what?---- sucks for you because all of your friends live back in (insert-name-of-your-home-town-here) and thus you have nobody to talk to anyway. You will try to make French friends but instead you will end up hanging out with just about any Anglophone Ex-pat you can find because in general French people really aren’t all that interested in making new friends, especially with people who barely speak French.
According to the Wikipedia Gods, France has been a world famous center of global fashion since the 17th century. But nowhere in this wikipedia article do they mention the persistant ugliness that is Euro-Trash.
I really do love corndogs.
I'm always cautious when it comes to answering questions about transitioning into French culture. I think it's such an individual thing. Some have a harder time than others, but nobody finds it to be easy. You can ask any ex-pat living in France if they think of France as being an "inviting" culture to try to integrate into and I think you'd be hard pressed to find any who would use that term.
Hope I didn't rain too much on your parade.
Have a question you’d like me to rant about? Send your question to: Madamek at ymail dot com.