Sunday, July 20, 2014

"french people are rude"

Or so it is said.

Of course, French people are not rude.  But you would probably think that they were if you were expecting them to be polite.

So expect things other than politeness from the French and you'd see them differently.  Better yet, expect greater.

In my own personal experience, French people have been many things.  Passionate, hypocritical, curious, resentful, resourceful, and stressed are only but a few of the traits that I've witnessed so far.  Nothing extraordinary, right?  Naturally, I find some of these flavors more pleasing than the others.  What's more, the presence of each of them varies from person to person and from time to time.  And all this would be normal, given the complex beings we humans are.

Above all, I saw the French not as rude, but as discreet.  Discreet in the sense that they tended to keep to themselves and to people that they already knew.  This discretion is of a highly subjective nature.  Arriving as a shy, English-speaking foreigner in the capital of a country with a strong cultural identity like France, I was assuming that I would be welcomed by the local community.  But no.  Nevertheless, I held on to my big dreams of making it as a Parisian, so I sought to practice savoir-vivre, improve my French, communicate only in French at soirées entre amis, increase my culture générale, appreciate wine, cheese, and other iconic French matters, and so on.  All that so that I could fit in better.  But no.  It seemed to me that most of the French people that I had met had a stable company of friends and that they did not need to bother anyone else.  Fortunately for me, I was able to find support in a couple of special people, friends and colleagues, some of whom were French or French-speaking but the most of whom were foreigners.  Yet outside of this group and sometimes within it, the feeling of lacking strong ties to the larger social environment remained with me.

Today, after seven years in Paris, I still do not see the French as rude.  My perception of them being discreet persists for the most part, but it bothers me less these days.  Looking back, perhaps this sense of discretion was a result of the culture shock that I was experiencing while settling in France.  But I now believe that it was mostly fed by my own past experiences.  In other words, it was me who was discreet.  It was me who had placed a barrier between himself and people.  It was me who chose not to bother anyone.  And it was me who saw a problem in all that.  That is why I have chosen since to love Paris, to invest in Paris and to improve my social skills while I live in Paris.

That said, if I must be dead honest, I cannot be sure that I'll make lifelong friends in Paris, in spite of my efforts.  Life is full of unexpected events and the people that I confide in could change their minds or their nature at any moment that seemed suitable to them.  I am myself also capable of botching up a relationship with a close friend if, for example, I suddenly decide to go in one direction whereas he is going in another.  Besides, since it takes two to tango as they say, I can only do so much.  And so much I will do, because of the great value that true friendship offers.  However, I accept the fact that there are some things that I cannot control.

What is more in my control, however, is being a better person.  Better as in less discreet especially.  And to do this, while I live in Paris, I will count on the help of the French people, be they rude, discreet, or whatever else is said of them.

We don't see things as they are.  We see them as we are.

Anaïs Nin

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