Before I came here I had heard that the French are rude – and though I hadn’t experienced it with exchange students that I’d met in Australia, there was certainly a bluntness about them. Yet upon living here I have found that they aren’t rude, just different. Certainly at some times their actions may be in no way appear polite (smoking over your shoulder as you eat dinner) , but they make up for it in some of the cutest ways (tough gangster men kissing each other on the cheeks) . And I am starting to warm to this French style.
The other day as I stood on the crowded bus for my half-hour long ride to work, someone that I knew from my table tennis club got on to. At this moment I panicked. In Australia you have two options: pretend you didn’t see the person, or talk to them. As he was standing less than two metres away I felt I couldn’t faint the former and sure I liked him and we got on alright, but I didn’t want to force small talk for half an hour. Instead I went for the glorious French option that I had seen many a time used by school friends, workers and grannies alike. I shook his hand (as we weren’t close enough physically or emotionally for the kiss), said ‘Bonjour ça va?’ and went back to studying my French words. Though I still felt a bit uncomfortable it is totally socially acceptable to ignore someone after you have acknowledged them, it didn’t seem to phase my friend at all.
The greetings are very important in France and it can be a very time consuming thing. Even in groups it is important to do the rounds and kiss or shake hands with everyone individually, though at least for work I skip this and give an Aussie group wave to everyone. I know that this makes me seem like a cold foreigner, but I can wear that tag from time to time. Once the greetings are out of the way though you can do as you please. Though this may seem a bit vacuous, it is great for a bus ride.