Here is the second part to my French Observations. Hope you still find them amusing and thought provoking.
One of the strangest things I have observed by far in my travels. In France, they start counting on their thumbs, where as in the states if we begin counting we usually start with our index finger and the thumb is five. That in itself is no big deal at all. The big deal that after 2 ½ months I don’t get is this….In France, since the thumb is one, the index finger is two…e
ven if you hold it up alone. When the students arrive we don’t know their levels of English, so we tell them to line up one by one to test them. Since most of us are North American we hold up our index finger and say one by one in line. Well two French students always step forward and they line up two by two. What the hell??!! One finger is one finger right? If in China they start counting on the ring finger and end on the index finger I don’t need to speak Mandarin to know they mean one if they hold up their ring finger only. I am not going to assume they mean 3 just because it is usually the third finger counted in the States. It’s the damnedest thing I have ever seen! We thought we just had a “special” group of students and tried it next week…..Same thing!! You go out to a bar or restaurant and hold up your index finger to indicate you want one of something you would think you’d get one right? Wrong! Yo’ ass is gettin’ two! Are there any other countries in the world that assigns values to individual digits so no matter how many fingers you hold up that is the value implied? Me being a tad bit ghetto, I like to mess with the students heads and hold up my thumb and pinky and say two by two. They don’t know what in the hell to do. They are like deer stuck in headlights. In a town of 50 people you have to amuse yourself somehow.
This next observation is a stab at the US. Why do we call it french kissing, french fries and french toast?? Has anyone ever thought to ask if there are even french fries or toast in France? Well there isn’t! They eat fries over here, but they don’t call them french fries. And they don’t eat french toast and call it “Our” toast. They don’t even know what “French” toast is even. What dummy started calling it those things in the states? The French word for fries is similar to the Spanish word papas. IF they use an English word for them they are called chips as they are called in England. They have NO clue about French toast here. The only thing they will dip toast in here is coffee and that’s it. They don’t even know what the hell is syrup . We serve an American brunch on the last day and we have to practically force the students to try maple syrup. Maybe that Senator was on to something when he suggested changing the name to Freedom fries and Freedom toast. The French were happy the name was being changed since they had nothing to do with either anyway. Oh, and French kissing over here is translated to literally mean, “Shoveling the dirt.” I swear that is what it means in English. Kinda takes the romance out of it when you compare it to shoveling sand and mud. They also can’t understand how we “French” kiss in the states and that’s it. In France if you kiss like that it implies sex is going to follow. It is considered VERY rude and in poor taste to lead a person on like that here. Hhhhmmmm….. Maybe the French are on to something. Women in the states, let me copy and paste that last sentence for you again. In France if you kiss like that it implies sex is going to follow. It is considered VERY rude and in poor taste to lead a person on like that here. I am going to attempt to arrange an exchange of specific cultural norms from each country with the US and French governments. The US gets the idea of sex always following French kissing, and France gets the ingredients to all of our extra strength deodorant. I think it’s a fair trade. On a side note….Swiss cheese in Switzerland is translated into English meaning “That cheese with all those damn holes in it.” Just kidding!!!!
This isn’t an observation specific to France but in my travels in general. I have been to a few countries in my life. What amazes me the most is the influence the United States has on other countries. For example, most people know about the strained relationship between France and the U.S. now because of the Iraq war, but being here in France I see more FUBU, Karl Kani, Phat Farm, NBA Jerseys, Du-rags and “ice” than if I were in NYC or LA. A lot of countries may hate our foreign policy, but they love our culture. The sad thing is how many people in the States know anything about these other countries. I don’t mean knowing a ton about every single little country in the world. But just the basics like if they are in Europe or Central America, etc, etc. I will be working in Latvia this summer teaching English. I found out today that they had to move the site because of me. Because of me??!! When the owner found out a black American was coming they knew the word would get out and people not associated with the school would be trying to come and have a look since everyone loves Americans there. If you don’t know, Latvia is a Baltic country that shares a border with Russia to the East. So it is nowhere near the U.S. yet they know more about the U.S. then the average American. Someone told me once that 7% of Americans have passports. I don’t consider any of you to be average, so how many of you are in that elite 7%?? I have learned so much about myself visiting other countries and have found a deeper appreciation for who I am and where I have come from through my travels. It took me living in Central America to appreciate the beauty of being black and living in NZ to realize the impact of my culture. France has taught me the danger of being so ignorant of other peoples culture and ideologies. Anyway, those are all the observations I have for now.