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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Explaining France Part 1

Ever since I moved here, I've been trying to describe France to a lot of folks who have perhaps visited but never actually resided in this fine country. It's a hard thing to do, really, because although France is very similar to America in a lot of ways, it's also unbelievably different. Some of my friends actually do not believe what I have to say about France, so I tell them, spend a couple months here yourself and you will see.

The best description I've come up with so far is that France is like a retarded America with prettier buildings, better food and skinnier people. "A retarded America" sounds pretty harsh, I know, but that's the only way I can describe a country that seems to collectively lost its common sense. I'll get into that later on in the post though, first let me talk about some myths/thoughts Americans seem to have about France.

Something I learned rather quickly upon landing here in France, is that contrary to popular (American) belief, the French do not hate America, Americans or speaking English. Now maybe it's only because I can't understand most of what is said to me in French, but people here seem decent enough and pleasant, altough you will get some rude stares in the subway for speaking loud, American English. And like I said, maybe I'd feel completely differently about this if I could actually understand what is being said to me in French, but I assume that if there's no scowl that they're not being dicks. They could be calling me a capitalist American pig with a smile on their face, but I give them the benefit of the doubt. So Myth #1 was quickly dispelled - the French do not hate America/Americans/speaking English (although a lot of them really can't speak English at all, but hey I can't speak French so who am I to judge).

Now that we've established that the French do not hate America, I feel I should qualify that statement by saying even though they do not dislike America, they still think that they are better than Americans in almost every possible way. They think their culture is superior to ours. I'll give them the food and the architecture and preserving history bit, but as for everything else? No-freaking-way. And I find it a bit silly on their part too since everywhere you go in Paris you will find MacDo's (McDonald's), KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and a whole slew of other very American stores. And although the French will try very hard to convince you that only tourists go into MacDo's, step into one yourself and you will undoubtedly find yourself surrounded by very typically French people. In fact, a lot of the people who work in the American fast food chains in Paris don't even speak English so I find it hard to believe that only tourists go to those places.

Another thing I've noticed that always strikes me as odd is that everywhere you go you will hear American pop music. I'm not sure what the French would listen to if they weren't listening to six-month old American "eep-op" (hip-hop) because that's seriously all you hear. Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, P-Diddy and the like are all incredibly popular. So, again, not sure where they get off being snobby about their supposedly superior culture.

The worst part of it all, is that their "thugs" have taken the worst part of American culture, the ghetto hip hop culture, and somehow managed to make it even more pathetic and laughable. I really didn't think that was possible but go hang out at Chatelet for 10 minutes and you'll see exactly what I mean. My roommate Joe likes to call it "hip-hop gone wrong" and it is, it really is. Somehow they made "ghetto" look really homosexual on top of looking incredibly stupid.

Also, the whole "French are rude" thing? I don't know if it's "rude" per-se or just very different from the kind of politeness we're used to in America. For example, here it seems perfectly socially acceptable to let your dog take a huge dump in the middle of the sidewalk and then continue on your merry way without picking it up. Every time I see this I have to suppress my gut reaction to yell after them, "Are you planning on picking that up?" which is certainly what I would do in America.

People here are also just not quite as friendly as in America. They think Americans are odd because we smile when we say "Bon Soir" as we pass each other in the stairway. It's just not how the French do things. They're not a very expressive people. And to them it's not "rude" when the information desk man looks bored and annoyed at your question, it's simply how things are done here. I have to say, that's one thing I don't like very much about France, I prefer my information desk people to be smiling and actually, um, helpful?

I think I will have to continue on with this post (and explaining my rationale behind the "retarded America" statement) at a later time because well...the toilet beckons. Yup, still suffering from the cacas. And school starts again on Tuesday. All. Day. Long.

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wingless was still breathing at 7:52 AM -

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