Demystifying the French: Tips for Traveling in France
A friend of mine recently told me that during the course of a conversation with a friend of hers, for some reason the friend (neither French nor American) said, “You know, it’s funny about the French and the Americans. Both of them always think they’re right about everything.”
Naturally, as an American, I was surprised by this remark. Though I love France, I have spent a great deal of my adult life there, and I go there every chance I get, I would never in a million years think of Americans being compared to the French in this way.
Though I love the French and admire many things about them, I think of them as “requiring special handling.” Whereas I think of Americans as being easygoing, freewheeling, and much more flexible in their approach to life. I don’t think of us as holding to a “right” way of doing things. In fact, in my mind, that’s one of the best things about us!
But perhaps keeping this observation from someone in a third culture in mind is a good way to enter this discussion: that is, perhaps Americans should consider the possibility that we are every bit as “difficult” to deal with as the French are, at least for the French.
Today I am launching a series of posts offering a few “rules of the road” I’ve come up with, based on more than 30 years of learning how to get along better in France. I’ve learned by hard (and often embarrassing) trial and error, along with some help from cultural guides like Polly Platt. It’s my hope that by sharing the wisdom I’ve gained along the way I can save you some of the embarrassment I’ve suffered and help you get on the fast track to enjoying a wonderful culture and people–the French.
Tip #1 coming along, right after this post. Read on!
Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and literature based in Silver Spring, Maryland. She teaches literature courses in Paris, Hawaii and Cuba for the Education Abroad program at Queens College, CUNY, and Writing from the Heart workshops in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France. This series of posts was written for a class she created and taught at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C.: “Demystifying the French: Tips for and Tales from Franco-American Encounters.”
Entry filed under: About France, About Travel, Demystifying the French. Tags: Americans in France, demystifying the French, France, getting along in France, Polly Platt, rules of etiquette in France, the French, travel tips, travel tips for France.