Tag Archives: culture

Is it time for the French to become more American?

Storming-Bastilleshops-shut  th

To start off on a positive note, the world knows that the French live to live their lives. Their extended lunches, long vacations, laissez faire attitude toward most all things unless it’s a strong opinion on anything from A to Z. Initially, adapting to life in France is not the easiest in the world especially when you come from a country where anything is possible and everything is open no matter what time of day. On a Sunday, in France, the streets are tranquil, you have to race to the store before noon if you need anything at all and the stores are beyond packed as if armageddon was arriving. The few cafés that are open are packed, which leads me to the question…why are you all closed?

The french government says that they want to preserve family time and give the people a quality life without having to work non-stop as we do, for example, in America. Yet, the French are some of the hardest working people I have seen. They work long hours, work with integrity, and YES they do create World War III if the water temperature in the water cooler is 3 degrees too cold, or heaven forbid they have to go to lunch at 12:05 instead of 12:00 because of a work related telephone call. Yet, they are an incredibly hard working people with superb manners and work ethic. The question of opening stores on Sunday is a touchy one because the majority of places are ALSO closed on Monday (for the most part), and all in all this sounds like such the life. Or is it?

With unemployment at an alarming rate in France, the people really do want to work (yes there are always exceptions). A gentleman was being interviewed on the radio some weeks back and said that he wants to open his business on Sunday. He has employees that want to work on Sunday, he wants to pay his taxes and add to the economy, yet the government tells him he can’t open his store without having to pay a supplementary tax in order to open his shop. There are many, such as myself back in the day, who loved having a day off during the week when the city was calm and I could do my errands without the hustle and bustle of the crazy weekend and then work that following Sunday. Nobody forced me, it was my choice as is most things in life.

With this in question, you have the mentality of 90% of everything being closed for almost 2-hours during the afternoon so the shops can take their lunches. How many people would like to run a few errands when needed during their lunch but cannot because everything is closed? The banks are closed, the post office is closed, even the electric company is closed. Again, it falls back to being able to enjoy your lunch and just slow down a bit but how many realistic workers are going out to a daily 3-course luncheon? As in most countries, a couple employees take their lunch early while the others tend the store, even if you are a small shop, and then when you are back the others go on their lunch and you run the store hence it is always open making revenue and keeping people employed. Pretty simple idea, right? Again, contributing to the economy, more people working, shops are accesible to the public and you STILL get your lunch.

Tradition is tradition and some may argue that it is not a bad thing and nor do I disagree, but I just wonder if we lightened up a bit on these staple traditions to make life more accessible to the world. People who want to work have the opportunity to do so, and I still have the opportunity to get my emergency Chartreuse that is sometimes needed at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday. Nobody is saying that we have to morph into the US mentality of work, work, work and bigger, bigger, bigger, but could we lighten up a bit on things that have been done the same way for a 100 years? Traditions are a wonderful, treasured thing that we do need to uphold yet sometimes we do need to catch up a bit. A bit like the 2nd amendment in the US that was adopted in 1791. Do you still have your bayonette in your kitchen? Liberté de pensée!

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To work or not to work? This is the question.

They call Americans workaholics. They work, work, work, work, work and then work some more. Some have to do so just to make ends meet and there is no other option. Others do it because they want to have more and more, bigger and bigger, and be better than their neighbors. Yet, there is no doubting that Americans are hard workers.

Yet with all this work, are their lives missing something? Maybe, a bit of life itself? A moment to sit at a café and feel the sun on your face, a half a day to just have a couple of cups of coffee and play with your kids (aka pets ;-)), or just for no reason at all but to relax. This, I feel, is the mentality of many Europeans. When they drink a wine, they enjoy every tiny sip (or large depending on the beverage). When they eat any cuisine, they really indulge and appreciate what they are eating. When they have a conversation, they are utterly dedicated to this conversation.

They definitely are hard workers but the mentality is completely different. Try finding fresh bread on Sunday……not happening (good bread anyway). Even try finding it on Monday….probably not happening. Then try finding much open in August….probably not happening either.

Sadly, more and more of France is becoming Americanized and stores are starting to open on Sunday and Monday, but they hold true to their traditions. Enjoying life. Taking that hour and a half lunch to really enjoy the food, taking those 3 days off a week (depending on your job) to really enjoy life. Now this is not to say that stores are open on those days, but the rest of us are not in them because we are out enjoying life!

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For the love of language, what’s the word for conditioner? Brown sugar? Wrench?

The one thing I love the most about living in the country that I love are my daily lessons of new words. One is really lucky to be living with a patient, at times, French person because they are a plethora of knowledge when it comes to explaining and pronouncing.

I add almost daily my new words, new expressions, and new phrases on my mini iPad, which also updates instantly to my iPhone so they are always available. Some days it’s 2 words and other days it’s 10 words. I glance at them many times throughout the day. While I’m waiting for the métro, cutting a salad, during a commercial and before I know it, they are flowing out of my mouth and I sound more French day by day! The trick is continuity and practice. As below, I now know bémol!Image