The Thing I Learned From the French…

They talk.  Face to face.  And they walk.  Arm in arm.  It’s not weird.  It’s not gay (is that the right term?).  They seem happy and full of life.  One day we took the metro to Versailles.  On the way back, an elderly French couple got on the train and sat facing us.  What amused me was the wife, who, even though she was speaking in rapid French, it seemed clear that she was not entirely happy with her husband.  He grunted and frowned in a noncommittal manner, occasionally glancing at me with a look that suggested he was wondering if I understood.  I smiled at him, and he rolled his eyes slightly in her direction, then looked out the window.  I was buoyed by this, oddly enough.  I think because it was refreshing to see that tiffs happens everywhere, to everybody, especially if a couple is together long enough.  Clearly, in spite of whatever their disagreement was, it seemed to me that they were still very much in love no matter what idiotic thing either one of them had said, or done.

Mostly, those I saw seemed very happy.  And even though the cause for this might have simply been that a lot of people were on vacation, I still thought there might be more to it than that.  They actually enjoy life in a way quite foreign to us.  They linger over meals.  They have conversations face to face, without the phone interrupting.  It was really something to see.

Coffee and Croissant

Given the recent political events here, I’m dismayed.  I think I might like to live someplace else.  And the scary thing?  I’m not the only one whose saying this.  When I came in from running this morning, the first thing Bugs said to me was, “So where are we gonna live now?”  A friend on FB said she wanted to move, but was unsure to where.

How do we learn the secret of the apparent happiness of the French?  Drink more wine maybe?  Eat more cheese and French Bread?  Possibly not turning on the TV during the news hours?  Go back to the old days where an afternoon of football in the yard, or a game of monopoly was on the menu?

Paris Street

We were outside most of the time no matter what the weather.  We walked all over, and enjoyed the sights and the people.  It was refreshing just to engage in the antique charm of the city, although my feet will never be the same.  But one thing was consistent, and that was the smiles everywhere we went.  Maybe it’s just the beauty of the river, or the architecture.  But they seem to know what they have and appreciate it.

Paris Street with Iris Pub

People say the French don’t like Americans.  I didn’t find that.  We tried to speak the language, and they appreciated it, even though most speak English very well.  One cab driver spoke no English, and with our limited French and a map, we were able to communicate just fine.  Some were very amused by our attempts to speak French, which brought a smile to our faces.  Some would take pity on us and gently insist on English.  It makes me smile to remember the looks on their faces.

Paris is a lovely city with lovely people, good food and great sites.  It will be fun to go again sometime–and maybe I’ll know more French when I do.

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37 Responses to The Thing I Learned From the French…

  1. Greisy says:

    It saddens me that people are actually wanting to leave this great country when so many have died trying to reach its shores. Though I’m not happy with the current situation, I have faith that we will once again stand proud of this wonderful place we call our home. As to Paris – you paint a lovely picture… maybe one day I’ll get to visit.

    • It saddens me as well. I have never actually felt this way, and as much as I travel, I have never felt like calling another country home until now. While I say that, I do know that it’s an illusion. All places have their downside.

  2. Pat Bailey says:

    You hit on some really good points, Arnel, such as smile more, limit the amount of news we take in, spend time nurturing relationships (with phones turned off), and walking more. These are all excellent stress reducers. Excellent post. Thanks.

    • Thanks Pat. I really wish they’d get a high speed train going here in the US. It would be such a great boost. It’s amazing how easy things are when you have subway and train systems to get you around, and that also gets people walking more. Not sure how they manage to sustain the high degree of smoking though…

  3. I find the same things in just about any place in Europe. People take time to just BE with each other. Conversations are still the norm, and relaxation is of primary importance. We can learn a lot from their lifestyles – without having to move, although sometimes that seems the easiest to do. 🙂 Great post, thank you!

    • Thanks Debbie. I agree. Another friend said the same thing (they are military and have lived in Europe a lot). They know how to communicate with each other, and relaxing and vacation is important.

  4. robincoyle says:

    I love how every table at every cafe is filled at every time of the day in Paris. You’d think no one has a job. And, imagine how the French women manage to do all that walking in high heels on cobblestone streets! Yowza~

    • Oui Madame. It is mind boggling. and not many are overweight. My husband observed this is because they only drink cafe and smoke cigarettes while they walk absolutely everywhere. 🙂 And I loved all the people at the cafe’s as well. It was amazing.

  5. Beedie says:

    Beautiful photos. And story. Unlike you – I feel hopeful and am very pleased with the recent outcome of the election in the U.S. (could be because I spent much of my married life as a Mormon wife). And Yes, speaking on behalf of LBGT’s, Gay would be the appropriate word as used in this context if it is meant in a derogatory way – as some might assume. Wonderful writing Arnel.

    • Thanks Beedie. I didn’t even stop to think about how that sounded. Did it sound negative? cause I didn’t mean it that way. People are so quick to jump to conclusions, but then what does it matter, one way or the other. I was just thinking that here (much like kissing on each cheek), it would be looked upon as strange, and there would be a larger percentage I believe that would be quick to label. Maybe not. There, one cannot assume the same thing, as it’s part of their culture.

  6. I think we visit other countries and we see one side of the lives of the people there and maybe are a bit envious and picture living like they do…maybe it’s better than where we live…but for me then the reality comes in and I realize that I don’t really want to live anywhere else despite the shortcomings of our country and it’s leaders….Diane

  7. denizb33 says:

    Lovely post! Looking at your photos makes me jealous – I want to go back to Paris!

  8. People are the same everywhere, but the cultural differences are real. I think that the French (and Europeans as a whole) have a broader and deeper perspective on the world, so they sort out what is important a bit better than we do. Nice article, Arnel.

  9. Lynne Ayers says:

    Perhaps Parisians were smiling because they are glad the peak of tourist season is over until spring. I love France, most particularly the south. I’d go again and again … and again.

    • You know, you could be right! 🙂 I heard August was that time in Italy, and in New Orleans it’s right after Mardi Gras, when all the tourists are gone. There, the locals leave FOR Mardi Gras. I’d still like to see the south of France one day. I’ve been to Lyon and Strausborg, a very long time ago. Do you speak French? If so, do you feel like it helps with friendliness?

      • Lynne Ayers says:

        I speak some and I think trying to speak the language is always well received, whatever country. I cannot understand our Quebec French but when in Troye in France, listening to a young lady of the hotel staff I realized I wasn’t even translating what she was saying, I was simply understanding it. I don’t use my French here at home but I do when I’m in France, to my limited extent.

      • How interesting. Is Quebec French that different then? And where did you learn French?

  10. denizb33 says:

    Quebec French is very different! It’s changed quite a bit of course, but they do argue that it’s closer to what French was like hundreds of years ago – back when the first French settlers came here…

  11. Europeans are pretty awesome!

  12. rohan7things says:

    Gosh this get’s me excited to be back in France, I lived there for a while when I was very young, 5 years old. Lovely post and beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing 🙂


  13. Tina Schell says:

    Nice post, lovely photos. Don’t think it’s fair to lump “the French”, any more than its ok to lump all Americans. Remember, you see a very small percentage of them in a short visit to a few places! Have been there many times, and they are wonderful as many of us are, but they have their warts too!!!

    • LOL, I know. I actually have a friend here who is French who pointed that out. That said, she continued on, in her opinion, they knew how to appreciate their time off more. I think that is more true of Europeans in general. Another friend here who is British and has worked in Publishing in London and New York claims that Americans work harder and for longer hours. Cheers!

    • And thanks for the compliment!

  14. Kerry Dwyer says:

    I have lived in France for many years now. I speak fluent French albeit with an English accent. France is becoming more like any other western country. MacDonalds on every corner and teenagers with mobile phones constantly attached to their ears. Paris is a lovely city although I live closer to Bordeaux which is also beautiful. It is sad to see the changes, everyone rushing about grabbing sandwich lunches and trying not to recognise their fellow humans. In my small town I still say hello to everyone I meet and they all say hello back. Shopkeepers say hello when you walk in. I hope it will stay this way.

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