Monday, April 21, 2008

What I Love About the French

Before we went to France, I was told that the people are off-putting, snooty and down right rude. We found the complete opposite to be true. Total strangers were willing to help without being asked, spoke wonderful English, and were generally friendly and warm. They made us feel welcome in their country.

That’s not to say there aren’t any quirky differences between the French and Americans. Oh yes there are. Some of these differences I wish would turn into cultural similarities.

Have you ever lost your footing in public? A murmuring crowd always gathers and stares. There’s something really unnerving about being in the center of that. The French understand it’s more polite to ignore another’s humiliation than to amplify it with concern. Genuine public emergencies are certainly not ignored. They ignore just the stupid ones. One busy Saturday night in a swanky restaurant in Paris, my husband stumbled over a scatter rug. Everyone in that dining room instantly found something else to look at. The maitre de turned his back, the bar tender found something on the floor, a waiter headed in the opposite direction and the diners found their entrees vastly fascinating. Everyone ignored his embarrassment. Everyone pretended not to notice. No one inquired about his health. What a relief! We were able to leave the restaurant with our dignity intact. Running from an unwanted ambulance is no way to end a perfect dinner out.

The French have style. No matter what they do, it seems they do it with style. In Pairs, specialty shops are the preferred method of acquiring goods. They do have one mall however, and unlike the specialty shops, it’s open on Sunday. Personally, I think they have the mall to make the Americans happy. So what do the Parisians do to give a shopping mall an extra sense of style? They put it in the Louvre, of course.

The French Flirt. It's not sexual harassment. It's not about getting hit on. It’s just the way men and women interact. It’s a compliment. I had a wonderful time flirting with a Frenchman while looking at the city from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral. Or should I say I enjoyed his flirting with me. It was great fun and made the climb up 391 stairs even worthier. Americans are way to wound up about this sort of thing.

The Food. Ohmygod the food. The best part of France is the food. Some say the French are arrogant about their culinary skills. It's not arrogance because they truly are better chefs. Even the low-end eateries are amazing. So far, I haven’t found one French restaurant in the US that matches. Many try, some come close, but none equal. I think one difference is what the French don’t do to their food. I heard a Frenchman say, “You can’t make a good cheese with dead milk.” He’s right. There's a bread factory in Paris that still makes bread the old way. The dough is kneaded by hand and allowed to rise in small wicker baskets. Food is about quality, not profit margin. I could eat my way through all of France and bless every extra pound. Potatoes fried in duck fat, moldy aromatic cheeses, snails of many flavors and colors, rich cheesy butter, glorious sauces of all kinds, pastries that defy gravity…… France is truly a foodie’s paradise.

I like the French. We had great experiences in Paris and Marseilles. I would love to go back. This time it would have to be Bordeaux.

1 comment:

Randomizer said...

Those French have a different word for EVERYTHING!