I’ve been jotting down notes about this post for some time, because the words don’t come that easily. I’ve wanted to update my community and people following our journey, but am often found debating with myself about how I feel and how I write about it.
We love it in France, I think you were expecting that. As you’ve read in other posts, it definitely helps that our kids have settled in so well, are loving school and their sporting endeavours. For that matter, this is a big reason why Rob has also settled in so well. Not the school part, as his French is still being worked on, but the sporting clubs form a part of his social scene each week and his contribution with coaching, gives him an interesting insight into the kids he coaches, as well as the parents.
All of the other obvious reasons such as food, wine, architecture, countryside, make living here a joy for the senses and the soul. We try to get out to a new place each week, to explore, drive down country lanes, see old houses, meet strangers in coffee shops (I never thought I’d take on this part of my dad).
But of course, living in country France has its difficulties and this is what I’ve been struggling with articulating. Some are observations, some are annoyances, some bother me while others don’t. However as we evaluate our time here, think about the future and contemplate our experience, we try to dig out the ‘cons’ and they do exist.
I’ve always been a social person, but I would consider myself an introverted extrovert. When I need to, I can switch ‘it’ on, keep a good conversation going, talk about interesting things and not just the weather. However, I also like my own company and have realised that I get a huge amount of joy from being on my own, baking, making or reading. I could do this for a week, day in day out, without a problem.
When it comes to meeting people here, in an established, quiet village or even the neighbouring town, it’s downright hard. My introvert is usually happy to have small talk at the school gate and carry on, but to work beyond that takes an effort I often don’t feel comfortable making. I retreat to my home, content with the knowledge that it takes time to meet people and over time, I will develop meaningful relationships. The reality is, that the French just don’t care. Did I say that? I did. Disclaimer: it might be wrong, it might change over time, it might be an ignorant observation but it’s just my opinion. Can you tell I don’t like being critical? Thanks Mum.
Back to the French not caring. I sat in the kitchen of a neighbouring french family, dropping Spencer off at a birthday party, and was invited in for coffee. We exchanged niceties, how are you going, how are the boys, you’re Canadian, was living in Australia with an Englishman, giggle, giggle. Silence. Beyond that, there are no further questions. Ever. Not why are we here. Not what do you do for work. Not much interest really, beyond the polite necessary conversation. But I ask myself why? Do they not care? Do they think it would be rude to pry and ask ‘personal’ questions? I don’t know exactly, but it must be cultural because they all do it, and it’s not unless you force yourself on them (like Rob does with the men at the rugby and soccer club) that they start to ask questions and open up a bit.
I believe this is where the French get their reputation for being rude. I don’t think it’s rude, but it’s a more closed culture where they are comfortable in their own skin, surrounds, homes with closed shutters, that they don’t worry or question what that anglo family are doing down the street. I’ve grown up with an inherent curiosity about people and places so find it a huge adjustment to live in a culture that doesn’t appear to have the same curiosity to know about me. So maybe it’s more about me and not about them?
So many of us also live in a world of others. What others are doing. What others are saying. What others are thinking. Perhaps this comparative culture of ours, makes me wonder more about other people instead of focusing on myself. I’m sure a therapist would say I have learning to do about myself first. Maybe, once I discover a greater comfort in living in my own skin, in the moment, I won’t care so much about what others think about me.
It’s good to question and observe and when you come to a new culture you do a lot of this. Having an open mind and accepting the ways of other people as different and not necessarily better or worse, is crucial. For the time being, I’ll keep being curious, enjoy the cocoon we’re living in and savour the parts of France and French culture that we adore. I hope that over time I get to know the French more and gain a different perspective on their reserved culture that sits in my heart & mind a bit better.
To learn more about our Adventures in France, you can read along here.
Learn more about Suzanne & Habitots here.