March 18, 2009

Not So Subtle Differences Between America and France

If there's one thing that three and a half weeks in America taught me, it's that my way of looking at things has become much more "French" than I realized. I'm not sure when this all happened, but I noticed it the minute my plane touched down in New Orleans.

Here are a few of the not so subtle differences that I observed during my stay.

First, there's the smile.
Wow! I guess I've always been aware of how often Americans smile, but it had somehow slipped my mind. I mean, everyone smiles. At seemingly everything. (my native New Yorker husband says this isn't so in the City - I bow to his wisdom)
Not that it is bad to smile...I don't mean that at all. I'm just not used to strolling down the street, or walking into a shop or a café, and having people flash their pearly whites at me anymore. It doesn't mean that the French aren't lovely, kind, warm people - most of them are - it's just that facial expressions are more reserved here.

Another thing, the chattiness.
When you buy groceries or go shopping in the States, the salesperson often acts as if they are your best friend.
Hi! How are you today? Don't you just love this? That is the cutest purse!
Isn't it cold out there today? What are you going to cook with this? I love your hair, who cuts it? Are you doing anything special tonight? Oh, that is such a pretty color! Where did you get those earrings? Quick - give me a synopsis of your entire life while I ring up your purchases!
It's all so familiar. I don't know these people from Adam, and I find their probing questions far too personal.

Then there is the attentiveness.
I know that servers in American restaurants survive on tips, but stopping by to check on our drinks and food every 5-7 minutes? What the heck?
Every meal I had out with friends or family was interrupted dozens of times by servers stopping by to see "how we were doing." I had to resist the urge to tell them that I would "do just fine" if they would just leave us alone!

Instead I smiled warmly, answered personal questions from complete strangers and tipped generously. I was in America after all. And as they say, When in Rome...


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