French Way of Life by Ellen Snyder

Over the past 2 months, I have spent a lot of time trying to immerse myself into French culture while living in Paris. I have started to realize that I am absorbing the language every day not just by speaking and taking all my classes in French, but in my everyday actions. Reading street signs and even food labels, listening to people on the metro or on the streets, and speaking with my host family. I never thought I would reach this level of competency and I think I will see the effects of this level of immersion even more when I return to the states. That being said I have started to pick up on some cultural differences between France and the United States that have become even more apparent. One major difference I’ve picked up on is the idea of being present. Present meaning being in the moment, without technology often and really connecting with people around you.

In America, it can often feel like people are glued to their phones, although this is not a phenomenon specific to the U.S., in France I have noticed this is less prevalent. Of course, people ride the metro and walk the streets with their headphones in and talk on the phone; however, there are some aspects of French culture I think that keep them more present. For instance, in the U.S. most people order or make coffee and take it to go, or sit for hours on their laptops working at a coffee shop. I would spend hours at my favorite coffee shops in downtown Charleston doing just that. However, in France people typically sit down briefly at a restaurant to enjoy a small “café” and smoke or read the newspaper. Also, the French in general don’t seem to be as occupied with the idea of having the latest and greatest technology, since it is often made in the U.S. and more expensive abroad. In addition, I attribute the idea of being present to “convivialité” which is an aspect of French culture often related to eating together. It is the quality of friendly exchanges and being together. In France, the culture of the dinner table is still very present and families really take the time to converse and connect over meals together. Over time I think this has been diminished in American culture as convenience and speed have become more prevalent in the food industry and families have and tend to dedicate less time to being together due to busy work schedules and school often. Having picked up on these two differences, I appreciate that France hasn’t caught up to these aspects of American life that I can often find taxing. I wish more people would disconnect in the U.S. and be more present as their parent’s generations were. I would like to take away from this experience that I should prioritize being present with my friends and family and encourage real connection away from technology and distractions.

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