After this week, one of the things I can say I am most thankful for in life is my gift of taste. I used to hate my parents because I thought they were TERRIBLE AND EVIL BECAUSE THEY MADE ME EAT MY VEGETABLES. And they used to say that if I didn’t eat what was on my plate for dinner I could make myself my own meal or just not eat at all. And I was hungry, so I ate. Now, as I find myself in Paris, where most all my past cultural experiences can be thrown out the window, I find myself wondering what in the world I would do if I were a picky eater. (No offense to you guys out there, but really, I just feel sorry for you).
Wednesday we had what I would refer to as an “Intensive Cultural Information Session.” Or really, “How to not be stamped as an American.” While some programs find themselves in 4-hour intensive language courses, we, however, already have the language part down. What we don’t know how to speak, though, is the culture in France. Imagine you need to use a tissue, but you can’t find one in your room. You may go to the bathroom and use a little piece of toilet paper as a substitute. But stop right there. Because what the French will think when they find said tissue in the garbage in your room, is, “Dear god, what did she use that toilet paper for if not for in the bathroom?” Their minds will start to spin and think you’re insane. This thought process can be applied to many other instances besides toilet paper.
When it comes to food, the French are more complicated than you could imagine. Hence the reason why I am thankful that I very rarely say no to something that can be eaten. When I first arrived and sat down with Madame to discuss rules and so forth, she took out a piece of paper to write down the foods that I don’t like to eat. That list was small: olives, bleu cheese, parmesan (weird), parsley, dill, lemongrass (but who really eats that, anyways?). I have to say, I was slightly embarrassed that the list was so small. Anyways, let me lay it out for you. The French eat a small breakfast: a hot drink (tea, coffee), milk/orange juice, a yogurt, or a piece of toast (or leftover bread from the night before). They eat a reasonable lunch, maybe a sandwhich or small something from a bakery shop, and then dinner. When it comes to dinner, you don’t take what you don’t eat. And if you don’t eat, you’re insulting them. It pretty much makes sense but when you’re put in the position of having to eat all that you are given or at least having to pretend (not on my sake, though) that you like something when you really don’t, it can be a struggle. French and food are the two F’s that you just don’t mess around with.
Other things we talked about in our culture session ranged from everything to how to hold a knife and fork to how the grading system works. When we started talking about the typical French personality that we would come in contact with, I felt myself resonating a bit with the stereotype. The Parisians are not ones to sugar-coat things. If they have a problem, they’ll tell you, they’ll be angry about it, they might even hate you. For all of about five minutes. Then life goes on. Their honesty is brusque and to the point. Sometimes I can be a bit harsh when it comes to being honest and I will forget to put myself in another’s position. The French just don’t take it personally and they just realize they made a mistake and attempt not to do it again. If more Americans avoided the passive agressive way of life and just addressed a problem when it first appears, I think people would be a lot happier and successful on the whole.
Finished week one of orientation and two days in Normandy. The history was worth the trip and I visited a great WWII museum that has to be one of the best I’ve seen. I’ve been to Holocaust museums both in DC and Jerusalem, and neither one quite got to me like this museum did. I wouldn’t recommend spending much time in Normandy, though, there’s not a lot to do once the sun goes down. View the blog for photos!
Thanks for reading everyone!