I’m often asked, “Have you noticed anything different about American and French culture, yet?”
I looked up from my seat on the metro to my American friend who asked this question. Of course I have noticed several differences. Some are very small, but noticeable—like how the French never eat with their hands, even when eating a hamburger and fries (my host father was shocked and pleasantly surprised to learn that we call des frites French fries). Others are a much more obvious cultural difference, and I think one of the most shocking one is the idea of really taking your time.
In Atlanta, every day is extraordinarily busy for me. I eat lunch in one hand and drink Starbucks in the other while I sprint from one class to the next. I spend my free time either at the library studying or working in the Department of Communication and I eat my dinner on MARTA as I head to Lenox Mall for my retail job. The craziness never stops.
In France, I have found myself noticing how much people take their time. It doesn’t mean people don’t have to be somewhere, but it does mean they don’t mind getting there at a much slower pace. Dinners in Paris last hours, because there are three or four courses. Walks in the park may take an hour or six hours, but it never actually matters how much time it takes. Parisians don’t eat their lunch on the go—and I have never seen a Starbucks cup outside of an actual Starbucks—because they always sit and eat. If you can’t get together with someone one day, ce n’est pas grave, because there’s always tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or whenever.
This is not to say that Parisians don’t take things seriously. They very much do. But they realize that there is no rush in getting it done. And this isn’t a singularly French concept—when I was in Italy, I witnessed this same way of thinking. And I’m really liking it. Maybe I won’t pack my days as tightly when I return to the States.