The next blockbuster hit: Franglais,What Americans think they know about France
Have you ever watched one of those movies where they only give you a small bit of information at a time? The kind, like Inception, the Village, or Ocean’s Eleven, where you think you know what’s going on, what’s going to happen in the end, and then they completely surprise you, changing everything? Living in France (or any foreign culture for that matter) is a lot like that. It’s like being dropped in the middle of a movie and having to try to figure out what you’ve missed, and what might happen next. With that sort of story line, my movie would be called: “Franglais,What Americans think they know about France” (the word franglais, for you non-french speakers, is the word used when you mash French and English together in a sentence)
The first scene in Franglais would show that most American think that the French are pansies. According to history, it is true that the French are not always the most outgoing physically. But the truth is- they are a lot stronger and more outgoing then you think. For example, most people don’t know that the French love to strike. In the month we’ve been here, there have been two major metro/bus/suburb-train strikes. The people want more money, so everyone strikes. They cause huge traffic backups, make all the trains really late, and march down the middle of the road anytime they choose – and its allowed as long as they tell everyone 24 hours in advance. The two we’ve seen have been transportation related, but they aren’t the only ones who “grève”. Two years ago, the university teachers striked for an entire semester. While it’s not strange for American’s to strike, the French take it to a whole new level that leaves foreigners a bit stunned.
Scene two would show us looking for a church, expecting most to be extremely traditional with stiff worshipers who stare at you all snobby-like. But the surprise plot twist in this part of the movie has been how welcoming the Parisian Christians are. Although it had been hard to find a French-speaking evangelical church that is not charismatic, no matter where we have visited, the people have been so welcoming. (there’s mini-plot twist for you- I never would have expected rowdy French Christians, but of the 40-50 protestant churches in Paris, many are extremely charismatic) Most people, if you ask them their opinions of the French, usually say they are snobby, stuck-up, or just outright rude, and although this opinion is usually just a cultural misunderstanding, the French are truly more closed off to newcomers than Americans are. With this in mind, I expected the French Christians to be the same reserved, unresponsive people as the non-christians. How wrong I was. We have been to two different churches here, in two different parts of the city, and both had some of the most welcoming, joyful, open people I have ever met in France or in the States. It’s so refreshing to have brothers and sisters whose culture I may not understand, but who know the same Lord and Savior I do. And to be able to worship with them is so wonderful.
As I continue to search for new plot twists for my mental movie, I am constantly reminded how refreshing it can be to see the world from a different perspective. There is nothing wrong with being an American fully immersed in the American culture, but I am constantly reminded that “The American Way” is not the only way to do things. And we can run into trouble when we start believing our way is right and their way is wrong. Even just visiting a charismatic church has been a eye-opener. In the States, I would never step foot in such a church just because it wasn’t how I was raised. But this church, although not my style, showed us that my way is not right and theirs wrong- they are just different. Those Christians were just as in love with Christ as I am, they just choose to express their joy in a different way. If David could dance before the Lord, why can’t we?
~Michelle- Paris, France