I remember the first time someone I had just met tried to give me a kiss on the cheek here in France. Quite honestly I wanted to run away. Apparently “the kisses” (one small kiss on each cheek) is the French equivalent to the American hug. Each time it happens my former missions professor pops into my head and says, “Remember, it’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.” I have since gotten used to kissing people on the cheeks instead of a hug, but there are still plenty of other things to get used to.
For example, in my verylimited experience with French culture, I would dare to say that confrontation is not faux pas. In America, we hear a lot about self-esteem. We value “positive reinforcement” and have to be careful not tell our children to “be quiet” but instead to “listen more.” At work or in the church, we make sure we sandwich any confrontation in a praise. Such as: “You are a really hard worker and we sure do appreciate you. However, you have been late every day for the last six weeks. We know you can do better!” We want to deal with the problem, but in a way that the person does not feel attacked. For fear of being labelled a grammar nazi most of us bite our tongues when we hear grammatical mistakes, especially with non-native speakers. Even with close friends, we generally wait for “what do you think?” before offering our advice.
Does Anyone Care About My Self-Esteem?
A More Loving Way?
Strangely enough, through all of this, we have not felt unloved, but more loved. We do not just have a school committed to us learning French, it seems we have an entire country devoted to us speaking their language properly. We have people who are concerned for our health, our children, and our French article usage. We have people correcting us, not spitefully, but with a smile. We do not feel like we are in middle school, embarrassed because we do not fit in, but instead we feel like we are on a team with coaches instructing us for our betterment. It is like being surrounded by those friends who are not afraid to lovingly tell you that you have food on your face or a spouse who whispers to you that you are talking too much.