November 26, 2014

Differences:Part 1 of a series

We were at our 4 year old son's friend's house for an apéritif when I commented that Luke was generally exhausted at 7:30 each night. "He spends his day in French preschool, living by French rules, and then he comes home to a completely different set of rules and customs at home."

My host looked at me quizzically and said, "Are there really such big differences between the two cultures?"

The question has stuck with me for several days now. It is an innocent enough question. We share many of the same commitments to freedom, the separation of church and state, a belief in equality. Over time, the French have absorbed so much of American culture into their lives (Coke, NCIS, Michael Jackson, George Clooney movies, menus translated into English, Sue Grafton books) that, seen through the French lens, I can buy that maybe they think that the cultures are similar.

Seen through the American lens, however, there are differences at every juncture, at seemingly every moment of every day. 

Want to have eggs for breakfast? You are a freak. 

You would like the pre-school teacher's email address? 50 euro fine just for asking. 

Thought maybe you would ask the neighbor -- who you see approximately 50 times a month -- what her name is after a year of living next to her? That is uncouth and just plain ridiculous. 

Looking for aspirin at the grocery store or Kleenex at the pharmacy? You should be publicly stoned.

What? You don't turn off your car engine when at a red light? Weird-o.

And much, much more...

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