Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Evening Spent in French

Last night I was invited for crepes by one of the other girls in my French conversation group. She is French, and her two French friends were also there, so I spent the whole evening speaking French. I was ravie to have the opportunity to really speak in French again! It's been almost two months since I've spoken French for an extended period of time. I could tell that my French has suffered since I've been back in the US - my accent has gone downhill, I'm starting to forget words, I don't speak as quickly as I used to. Overall though I felt pretty good, I didn't have to search for words too often, I felt like I switched into French pretty easily, I wasn't constantly thinking about how to conjugate verbs and making nouns and adjectives agree. I know I made mistakes, but I haven't totally lost it yet.

Of course we had to talk about my impressions of France and their impressions of America! It was interesting to me to see a little bit of our culture through their eyes and how after being in America for a while they had changed their ideas about certain things. Some interesting discussions we had:

- they seem to think we have a lot more bugs in the US than in France and therefore we need mosquito screens more than they do. I disagree! If I left my window open at night during the summer in France my room would be full of bugs! I eventually learned to pull the curtains closed over the window opening so that the bugs were fooled, but I still spent a lot of hours killing things that got in my room.

- we talked a lot about how accueillant Americans are vs how cold the French can be. One girl said that she likes how Americans are so friendly and welcoming, but at the same time it makes her a little uncomfortable because it's not the type of behavior she's used to.

- they have all decided that the French are pretty ridiculous about always having to be made up and dressed to leave the house, no matter for what or at what time of day. They said that after being in the US and getting used to the idea they are OK with leaving the house less than completely perfectly dressed. One girl sent a set of velour loungewear to her sister in France. The sister had called her up and demanded what she was supposed to do with these things!

- how great it is that stores in America are open ALL THE TIME - Sundays, holidays, after 8 PM, you know, whenever stores in France are closed.

- they think that Americans take more advantage of their time off than the French. We don't take vacations, but we do try to take advantage of time spent not working, for example, going out with friends on weekends and weeknights, finding things to do, joining clubs, going bowling, etc. They think that the French take their vacations and free time for granted because they have so much of it. I don't know how much I agree with this one, but it's an interesting observation.

It was a great evening, and I hope that there are more to come!


Zhu said...

It's really funny that, we talking to expats, you can get dramatically different points of view.

For instance, for me it's basically a given that Canada is cheaper than France when it comes to accommodation, food (minus the cheese!), clothes etc. Yet, some expats strongly disagree - I don't know why or how!

As for work, I have never worked in France. I know we have very little holidays here compared to France, but it seems to me that daily work hours are shorter: 9 to 5 (for office jobs) versus 9 to 7 or 8 pm.

shannon said...

Sounds like you had a lovely evening!

And oh I miss the convenient hours of things in the States! Today is Monday, my day off. I have things I need to do, but everything is closed in Chauny!

Andromeda said...

I miss the casual wear. I straightened my hair to go to the grocery store. Sigh.

It's interesting about the accueilant thing because it extends even to things like philanthropy. I head Americans described on BBC World as "big-hearted" which seems so unusual for a capitalist country. More outwardly aware of others than Europe perhaps? Whatever it is, I miss it too!

au soleil levant said...

Zhu - that is so weird that some people think Canada is more expensive than France! How on earth do they work that out? Are they still thinking in francs? Good point about the work hours.

Shannon - No wonder there isn't an equivalent in French for "convenience!" Similar words but nothing that to me is a direct translation.

Andromeda - I think the difference is that in Europe they expect the government to help people, so maybe they feel less obligation to give to charity, whereas in the US we have significantly less help from the state and therefore rely on charity to help others. That certainly goes hand in hand with our brand of capitalism! Maybe the accueilant attitude is part of the pioneer ethos, you know, every neighbor had to pitch in to help each other out because there wasn't any other help coming.

Jennie said...

I know I take my free time for granted since I have so much of it! It's crazy how much I don't get accomplished because I think, eh, I only have to work 3 days a week anyway, so I'll push everything off until next weekend. France makes me more and more lazy.