If you can believe it, my five fellow Crusaders and I have now been in France for two whole months. As such, it is only appropriate that I provide an unbiased evaluation. Lucky for you, I have conducted tenacious analysis and completed daunting qualification of quantitative experiences. I believe a preliminary hypothesis I developed back in Tours (in the clandestine corner of a coffee shop, aptly named The French Coffee Shop), now has sufficient proof to become a theory. And much like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, I am ready to present my results, despite the fact it may not be a law:
Hypothesis (flagrant stereotype):
French cultural norms would be eviscerated with acerbic celerity in the United States.
Experiment (daily observation):
-Lemonade stands are illegal, as is having two jobs. That is not a typo.
-Some days, the newspapers just aren’t printed (oui, vous Le Monde).
-During the month of August, nearly every store is shut down.
-Stores also like to close on Mondays.
-Many businesses, including the post office, take a two-hour lunch break (smoking can take up more time than one might think).
-“Edible” cheese can be entirely moldy, as in completely blanketed in the color green.
-There exist lingerie stores… for men. Just for men, like the hair-coloring product.
-Often times, using the restroom in public places requires payment.
-The notion “pick up after your pet” is more foreign than the terrain of the planet Neptune.
-Bus drivers do not always know their route.
-Teachers do not always provide their students with a book list or bibliography even six weeks into a class.
-Occasionally, one’s cell phone will deliver a message up to four days late.
-Primary school children only have school four days a week. See ya Wednesday!
-Here and there, a waitress will drop a carafe on a child’s head before it shatters on the cobblestones spilling its aqueous contents every which way. I wish I were making this up.
-A strike can happen any time, anywhere. This month’s topic: changing the retirement age from sixty to sixty-two (this month, last month, next month, etc).
-Now and then, a student will answer his or her cell phone in class and proceed to carry on a conversation. The teacher often says nothing.
-Drivers often invent parking spaces if one does not exist. Regard for means of egress or pedestrian accommodation is as real as the Tooth Fairy’s twelve-year-old molars. See image below (not of her molars, silly goose).
Analysis (comparison to American daily life):
Due to the litigious and quick-paced nature of the American people and their market-based economy, an average Marylander might find himself somewhat culture-shocked.
Conclusion (my theory):
The French way of life is quite different from that of the typical American. So, yes the aforementioned egotistical, xenophobic hypothesis would be more or less correct. But with refocused global lenses, I may revise my premise a little. The calmer tempo of French daily life that focuses more attention on family and friends is a welcomed change for an adventure-seeking Crusader. For any American, these changes would be difficult, but place a French person in the US, and he or she would have the same difficulty. This is what I call the Weyland Theory of Cultural Relativity. All it takes is some perspective.