This week I want to talk about positivity. Not about how stay positive or be positive, but rather than concept of positivity, or the lack thereof. To put it simply, the French aren’t that positive. Of course, this is a huge generalization and while it probably does not apply to all French people (in fact, I’ve witnessed firsthand that it doesn’t), I have noticed a few things that have lead me to catch on to the general negativity here, or perhaps, the impression of it.
1) No smiling
Maybe I’ve talked about this before, but smiling isn’t something the French do very often. Don’t get me wrong, people here smile ( they are not all just a bunch of grumpy cats) but it’s noticeably different how much more Americans, a.k.a. myself, tend to smile. For example, smiling on the metro is a no-no. Keep to yourself, read a book, don’t make eye-contact; that sort of thing. This I can handle. I usually don’t feel too “smiley” on public transportation, anyways. Yet, for me it’s almost instinct to smile at someone when they enter the room at work or if you casually make eye contact with them on the street or if you’re ordering something or saying “Bonjour” in the morning. Yet, in all of these scenarios, the French still don’t smile. Someone explained it to me saying that a simple, “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” to someone is the French’s version of a smile. Smiling or not smiling aside, what I am trying to say is I think this lack of happy expression contributes to the French’s overall less-than-positive vibes. I’m no scientist but I think that the “fake it till you make it” rule applies to smiles and being positive, too.
2) High standards
It seems to me as though the French have incredibly high standards. I mean, look at how many specialty stores they have for each type of food. Of course, I’m envious of this because the food is much better, but it’s not like people would ever settle for just a Walmart here. Additionally, my host mom recently apologized to me because she “has not made dinner” since I have been here. I was perplexed. She makes dinner every night for her and her husband and I eat with them. I didn’t understand, which I stated. She continued to explain that she had not really prepared a meal (I’m assuming something more lavish than pasta or chicken) because of her work schedule and how tired she is at night. Of course, I told her not to worry but I was still so shocked that she had such these high standards of week-night dinners for herself. Once again, I’m no expert but I think the French hold themselves to a very high standard, almost like they are all perfectionists. It can be difficult to see the positives with this kind of outlook.
3) Hating Paris
Yes, I know, even writing those last words hurt me but it’s true, some people hate it here. It seems to me like no one really thinks of Paris as “home”, except maybe those who are born-and-raised Parisians. People may live here but from different people I’ve talked to, a lot of the French seem to find Paris overrated, expensive, crowded, and not all that pretty. Most People look at Paris like a stepping stone: work here until I save up enough money to retire to the South of France or somewhere else. Which is strange, because I think it’s the other way around for Americans: you save up to live in the big cities. And while I guess living it such a touristy city would get tiring after a while, I think this “realist” attitude about the City of Love adds to their general negativity. They are more quick to point out all the imperfections of the city rather than to point out all its beauty.
However, there’s two sides to every coin. So while the French may be less optimistic, they are very much-so realistic and are very straightforward. This is really refreshing after the somewhat over-board positivity and “niceness” in the USA.
I’ll definitely miss the views, the bread, and the pastries here. But I’ll be excited to smiling at stranger stateside soon.