Okay, so we have this sabbatical, this opportunity to experience a new place. We could have chosen anywhere. So we chose France. Perhaps because Greg and the kids have French citizenship and passports. Perhaps because France is known for it's food and culture.
But the closer it gets (we fly to Lyon tomorrow), the more I realize that we have chosen a place with not only a difficult language, but also a place extremely proud of its language. That we have chosen a place not known for its friendly generosity and hospitality. We have chosen a place known for being brusque and proper, bureaucratic, and difficult to get to know. If we were going to Scandinavia, I would be happy to learn to emulate some of their simplicity and efficient design. Iceland or New Zealand would be friendly and just all around cool. If we were going to Japan, some of their politeness and grace might rub off. But France? With celiac, I can't even eat their bread. Was I going there to bring back an upturned nose? To paint it in the best possible light, maybe I was going to bring back some of their appreciation of the finer things in life? Still, luxuries are not my forte, so it seems like a strange match. The question remains: why France?
It will be fun to answer this question. I really can't say in advance what I'll learn and what I'll bring back. But reading this book on French culture by Polly Platt called French or Foe? gives me an inkling of something important I might bring back: confidence.
In addition to not smiling at strangers, it is apparently just not French to admit you are at fault. This is truly a foreign concept to me! I am responsible for everything and only too happy to take the blame. When an acquaintance spilled red wine on the author's beige couch, the acquaintance did not apologize, merely commented, "What a strange color for a couch." Or another man who gave an acquaintance a key to use his garage. The man came back and produced a key the owner had never seen and said he had been given the wrong key. The owner figured out that the borrower had in fact lost the key and was trying to save face. This will be interesting for me!
So when the children are eating with their fingers and slurping salad dressing from their plates, wearing their ripped shirts wrong side out and backwards, I will hold my head high as if nothing is amiss. Didn't you know? It is the way things are done.