Friday, January 29, 2010

Hygiene – the final chapter?

Again – I am loving this debate – I learn so much more this way than when I just spout off my mouth and no one is there to hear!

So, it seems that I am arguing the French are not very worried about germs….

The fact is I am right.  But the thing I missed was the very good, extremely logical reason.  The French don't need to be germaphobic.  I can't believe I didn't see this before.  French people don't need to be as worried since they know (even if it is only on a subconscious level) that people who are really sick stay home.  They know this since that is what they also do, since they won't lose their jobs, their vacation days or even their pay if they need to be home.  They also don’t need to be worried since they know that everyone around them is generally healthy and not likely to be carrying deadly pathogens.  So why not give those kisses and share that food? 

It all makes sense to me now.  Another way to think about sharing food is also in the sense that this country really went through two World Wars – in a way we can’t possibly understand – people went hungry all the time back then.  Even now, the idea of throwing away food is just not acceptable.  You never see people using doggie bags in restaurants – they just eat it all up.  But that’s better for the environment right – not to have all those leftover cartons?  And, despite their out of fashion in the US ‘clean plate’ psyche, they are definitely NOT the people with an obesity issue.

As for the other stuff – boogers, stinky, stuff with kids…. I know that they are definitely not indicative of the entire culture or population of France (except perhaps the kids stuff).  I do live in one small corner of one small city in the giant country that is France – so maybe no one else would have these observations but me.  As I said at the close of an old blog full of generalizations.  “There is no such thing as typical.”  But I DO think the things I observe probably happen a lot more here than at home – and that’s why I notice.  I think that is one of the main reasons it is so cool to be in a different culture – to get a chance to notice these differences, appreciate them, see different cultures and learn from them.  I also like to write about them, poke fun at them – be my typical sarcastic self.  It’s a blog – not Encyclopedia Britannica.     

However, I think the US is right in it’s germophobic ways.  Since sick people are walking around all over the place all the time, since they don’t have good health care – it’s best to keep us as separate and with as little food sharing as possible. In fact, there is major room for improvements and additional things.  Like, how cool is it that French kids bring toothbrushes to school to brush every day after lunch?  We should do that!

And hey, I know there are plenty more things we do in the US that ain’t so perfect.  Lots of them drive me crazy.  I think my worst pet peeve is litter.  When André and I lived on Harper Street, people would drop trash, including things like chicken bones, on the street right in front of their door on a daily basis.  It was totally disgusting – and definitely not good for public health.  Litter is not much of an issue in super-environmental Mt. Airy – but that (again) is just one small corner of the wide wide world.

I guess I’m being defensive when what I mean to say is, that when it comes to my own life and observations – this is only my perspective – and I record it for myself so I don’t forget who I was and what I thought when I was 33, with 3 small kids, living the dream in Besancon. I don’t think I will ever be able to embrace all aspects of French culture – but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect them and am not thrilled to be a part of it all.

And that is it – this time – no matter what!


Alain said...

I am glad it all makes sense to you now ;-)

I definitely agree with the influence of the world wars: All of the actual French parents / grand parents lived the war from the inside, living in an occupied country with rationed food, so they taught us (the hard way, in some instances) that food must not be wasted.

Cultural differences are usually fun and what I learned from living in the US is that there is no such rule as "American people are..." or "French people are..." because everybody is different and one example of something unusual in a foreign country does not mean it is THE rule in that country.

Living in two different countries definitely makes us more open minded and able / willing to understand differences between people and cultures.

Alain - From Besancon to Philadelphia

Adeline said...

Something I appreciate very much in the US is that pets owners pick up their dogs poop. So you can walk peacefully without risking a mess.
Frenches must learn from Americans about it! No doubt!

Since I live in America I use hands sanitizer, thing I never did in France. ;)

Have a nice weekend!

Bises ! :)

Adeline C.

オテモヤン said...



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