Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Significant Cultural Differences Between France and the US

While I'm sure there are numerous cultural differences between France and the US, one that immediately stands out in a business environment is that it is customary in France to go around in the mornings to greet your co-workers with a "Bonjour" and a hand shake or cheek kiss.  Of course, for us US folks, they just shake our hands and skip the kiss.  It is considered impolite not to do these things actually, so I have joined in with making my morning rounds!

Upon telling my stories about Marseille, I also learned some key differences between dating in the US and France.  While I will not be dating in France, I thought it would be fun to relay some of these differences!  In France, if a man is interested in you (and is not just interested in basically ANYONE), he will not approach you and ask you out right off.  He will strike up a conversation with you first and spend some time talking to you, so the guy who immediately tried to escort me to coffee and kept trying to hold my hand (and did NOT catch the hint that I wasn't interested) probably likes to escort a lot of girls to coffee, if you know what I mean.  The guy who struck up a conversation about photography and what I thought of Marseille prior to asking me to coffee is probably not such a bad guy.

Additionally, the concept that you could be "dating" (as in going out on dates alone) with someone in the US and NOT consider them your boyfriend or girlfriend is not a French concept . . . and at the point where you're kissing, you're DEFINITELY boyfriend and girlfriend.  You do not date more than one person at a time, although I'm told that is changing a bit with the younger generation - but largely just the younger boys will sometimes date more than one girl (girls still date only one person at a time).  Also, if a man is interested in a woman, he contacts her every day - if a French man stops contacting you daily (and you aren't in a long-term relationship already), he's lost interest and you're no longer dating.  While there are men in the US who will do the same, the idea of a guy "playing it cool" and waiting a few days to call or text is not something a French man would do.  Very simply - he likes you, he calls/texts; he doesn't like you anymore, he doesn't call/text again.

And when I say "French men" I literally mean the men.  Women's lib in France has not extended to the concept of women asking men out.  Men here are forward and persistent because it is their job to ask the woman out, to pay for the dates, to be the pursuer and it is not uncommon for women to play hard-to-get a bit.  So, you can't be polite about saying "no thanks" as you might just be looking for a little more persuasion.  You have to be blunt.

I will leave you today with a picture of my MacGyver'd covering of the little fan hole in the bathroom.  It is intended to self-propel I believe, but doesn't.  Normally, I leave it closed, but I *really* needed the house to smell more like a campfire and less like I tried to burn the place down, so a paper towel and, lacking tape, band-aids!  Ta-da!  I may not be able to build a fire, but I can let fresh air in and keep mosquitos out. :-)

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