Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yes, I'm really living in a foreign country...

Yesterday can only be known as a Very Bad French Day. The part of my brain that knows French is apparently already on vacation. It left early and took the bus without my knowing. I had to get some tasks accomplished, but my Bad French combined with other people's inexperience in dealing with a non-native speaker led to some confusion and frustration on both sides. (Seriously -- I'm not a 6-year-old and I'm not deaf -- I just need people to speak more slowly and enunciate). It all worked out in the end, but not without a little embarrassment. In one of Bad French interations, I had another important lesson reinforced. Sometimes people will sound horrible on the phone and not be helpful in the least, but if you show up afterwards and smilingly bother them again because you really do need whatever it is they aren't giving you, they turn out to be nice people. Note that I said sometimes.

I can't remember if I have written about the mantra that I chant in times like these: France is complicated France is complicated France is complicated and Complicated is beautiful complicated is beautiful complicated is beautiful. There's a different aesthetic in operation here. I'm quite used to expecting things to work in a simple, somewhat efficient manner...Point A to Point B and all that. I like to have clear rules that don't change so I know what to expect. It's comforting, but I guess can be seen as boring. France does not seem to operate on the same system, but it somehow works. The language is like that. The goverment is like that. Driving is like that. Driving is a good example; those of you who know me have heard me bitch about it, but the more I get used to it, the more I (sort of) like the complexity of it. The rules make sense...but there are so many of them and you have to use your brain a lot more while driving.

Simpler is not better here. I think people think simpler is just for dummies and there's a beauty in complexity. The French are very aesthetic by nature, I think, so it carries over into everything. Except new architecture...I need to rethink my theory there. So, while I cannot take comfort in the simple, transparent nature of daily interactions in France I can take pleasure in the challenge. Obstacles to overcome and all that. Life would be boring if it were easy. Of course, maybe that is just something a dumbass would say. Yesterday I have to admit one embarrassing moment happened just because I was a dumbass. Oh, well.

I'll write more about it at a later date when it's just funny, and not horrifyingly funny. Oh, and I know that my France is complicated is beautiful theory has holes, but it gets me through the tough times. If you have a better one, though, I'd like to know!

7 comments:

Angela in Europe said...

I sing that same song in my head all the time! And I love it when people yell at me when I ask them to repeat.

Samantha said...

I have to admit I'm curious as to what happened now!!!

bcinfrance said...

I agree that France is much more complicated -- I often say complex -- than the USA on many fronts. I'm with you on the modern architecture too, though. But I'm not sure if the French like all the complexity or if they have just learned to live with it...and gotten used to it.

Run Around Paris said...

I don't know if I could ever get "used" to the driving in Paris. The first time I rode in a car with a Parisian driver, we made our way down an extremely narrow street, but instead of us or the car heading towards us conceding, both proceeded forward and the other driver hit our side mirror fairly hard, but kept driving without even a backwards glance. The driver of my car didn't bat an eye at this, while I was completely amazed. I just kept thinking, if that would have happened in the States, there would have been a suit in progress!

Erin

guffie said...

Hi,
I must totally agree with you, France is complex, in its way, but then everywhere is. I can't imagine what driving in say, Bombay or Hong Kong would be like (certain death for me, I assure you), or life there either. I imagine it as way more complex and confusing than life in a western country. I guess it is a matter of learning the "rules", both spoken and unspoken.

I love your mantra. I have been here a little over 2 years, and it is important to meet France on "her" own terms. France will not bend to you. I found it hard at first to accept somethings, but delighted with others. Now, it is finally feeling like home! I do agree with your post about coming home from your vacation, I need to have some English movies & tv too!
I look forward to reading more of your entries.

blueVicar said...

Can't read enough about living life in a foreign land! You've got a convincing way of showing others what you saw with your writing..in other words, you tell a good story.

Don't you just love calling to ask a question and then having to go visit the place you just called anyway? Sometimes I don't even bother with the phone first...

Ah! Life abroad!

Meilleurs vœux!

angela said...

I agree with you on all this especially the architecture thing. Life here can be confusing, frustrating and so stressful but then there were times when life in the UK was like that too.