You Like Me, You Really Like Me!

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The French aren’t the most demonstrative people I’ve ever been around. I don’t include my husband in that statement. I don’t know if he is “Americanized” by living in the States for ten years or not, but he is very sweet and he does show me that he cares about me. Even with all of that double kissing on each cheek that is exchanged whenever you meet a French person, it doesn’t seem much to have to do with warmth as much as just tradition, in my opinion.

When we first moved into our house in Provence we had several French couples over and after showing them around got sort of luke warm reactions which made me feel that our house wasn’t that great. Maybe we just thought it was but it really wasn’t. It wasn’t until we had some American guests over and they raved about it that my confidence in what we had created returned. Of course, the French think Americans rave about everything and that we aren’t often sincere when we do. Anyway, I don’t expect to get enthusiasm from the French anymore–and therefore don’t get my feelings hurt.

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One day Maurice and I were having dinner at one of his relative’s. We were all sitting there having a drink and chatting. At some point everyone left the room except for one man and I. While we were there he starting asking me things about myself-how I liked Paris, how my French was coming, what I thought about certain things. He actually seemed to care. It was later, after we had left, that I realized that, while Maurice’s friends and relatives, all seem to like me and are friendly to me, not one of them had ever really tried to truly get to know me or engage me in conversation on more than a surface way. I think it was then I started to realize the difference between Americans and French. I may be wrong, but that is my take on things here. I save sharing my life and personal thoughts to when I am with other Americans, usually women.

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One of my few negative comments on living in France. I really love it here in France, on the whole.

13 thoughts to “You Like Me, You Really Like Me!”

  1. you are entilted to critic, Linda, the love for your life in France is showing in all your blog
    Thanks for the nice pictures, over the weeks..
    I am going back to my American turkey….

  2. Linda, was the man who seemed genuinely interested in talking to you American or French? And how much is the language barrier a factor in your feelings? Remember that French people are often pretty uncomfortable about speaking English. And they don’t want to be seen as asking personal or indiscreet questions.

  3. Ken-He was actually a Frenchman who was fluent in English. He has always been nice to me but always on a shallow level. As I said, my husband’s family is very nice to me but I just don’t get asked much about myself and they are very fluent in English. Just something that happened to me that made me realize something going on in my life. I don’t know how different it would be if I were fluent in French. Linda

  4. Linda,
    You must read (if you haven’t already) “Almost French” by Sarah Turnbull. This was one of her major issues (being ignored by French at gatherings that she attended with her husband). Many years later she approached the same people asking them “why”? Turns out they were shy, insecure about their English, affraid she would judge them, etc.
    This is just one rewiew of the book: “This account of a 20-plus Australian woman’s adventures as she tried to adjust to Parisian ways is both insightful and funny. She found that the French weren’t interested in making new friends; were unwilling to discuss their jobs, hobbies, or much of anything except the food they were eating, planning to eat, or had eaten; and they wished to socialize in mixed groups-no girls’ night out for them.”
    You are not alone. And apparently, with time (20 years or so), it will get better ;-)))))

  5. Linda,
    I have found that many french are simply being very discreet, and think asking personal questions is akin to being nosy. My solution is to just blab away to my heart’s content, whether they want to hear it or not 🙂

  6. It’s true, I think, that most well-bred, educated French people will go out of their way not to be nosy. They will however be interested in the information you want to share. As Meredith said, chatter away and I think people will be receptive. They will be surprised that you are willing to reveal things that they would be afraid to ask you about.

  7. Yeap. I know this feeling, you said it right on. Privacy is highly respected. Vacations are a easy topic…When I am in the States it takes me a few days to adjust to the conversations…And I always lose my voice.

  8. Don’t you think they were “lukewarm” about the house, not because they didn’t like it, but because no French person ever does show you around the house, and they probably didn’t know how to behave?!?

  9. All of you give interesting observations. I didn’t so much show people around the house as have them over for a meal so they just saw the kitchen, dining room and outside. I was just struck by the difference between French guests and American guests. There really is a cultural difference. I have had to “train” my husband how to respond when I ask him how he likes a meal I’ve prepared. A “It’s OK” does not cut it with me-damned with faint praise. Now he always says, “This was really good” unless I’ve done something he doesn’t like, which occurs more often than I like-picky French husband. Linda

  10. Hi Linda,
    Just what I noticed, clichés are sometimes true. Americans I know are much more direct and outgoing, easily sharing. From the beginning I found French a bit obsessed with interpretations, and not intruding on or bothering the others… except when they are amongst very good friends, people they know really well and with whom they can really be themselves.
    Just curious, did you manage to make any native French friends yet ?

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