Oh the Travel ‘Companions’ I’ve met

Most of the time I relish in flying alone. Despite the stress that usually accompanies flying- waking up at the ass crack of dawn, dealing with power drunk security officials, eating god awful food at jacked up prices- in spite of all of this, airports can actually provide a wonderful source of solitude, or much-needed space. I have time to write, ponder, read that book I’ve been dying to finish, observe the various interesting human interactions, and catch up on my latest trashy magazine (yes Cosomo is my guilty travel pleasure).

But then there are times when I wish to all-that-is-holy that I was traveling with a partner, or friend, or anyone who I could comfortably tell to “move their damn arm because it is popping my personal space bubble!!” On my way home this past Saturday, as I sat getting far too personal with the frosty airplane window, because Mr. ‘Unaware of His Surroundings’ just had to take up the entire arm rest, and even some of the skin between my ribs, I thought about the travel “companions” I’ve had the pleasure of knowing throughout the years.

I present to you only a few of the character’s I’ve met.

1. The Talker
This companion can actually be quite fun- if you’re in the right mood. Usually they’re excited about their destination, and want to hear all about yours. But mostly they want to tell you about their life’s story. I’m from Texas, so it’s kinda protocol to engage if someone talks to you. We’re talkers too. However, if I’m sleep deprived, or travel constipated, or still pissed off by the TSA jacking my favorite key chain, (true- it was a tiny pocket knife, but it’s honestly so small that even a fly would roll their eyes at it), then the last thing my sweaty, frazzled self wants to do is exchange in social pleasantries. Which leads me to #2. Continue reading

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French don’t give a #@*! about being polite- Part Deux

After a particularly frustrating nonverbal couchsufring dinner experience, my return resulted in yelling at Antoine, “We have may have pride, but the French have pretension! At least we can be proud AND humble!!”

Though I wasn’t quite sure if that statement made the most sense, at the time it felt valid. Because I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again, the French can be rude. Or at least they could care less about being polite.

rude

Their sarcasm is really just blunt meanness, they take over public transportation (and won’t even try to make room for others), they don’t notice their surroundings and could care less about your personal space, and they blatantly make fun of your accent (but to be fair, Americans aren’t much better, and plenty of Frenchies have been nice and patient with my accent…so really maybe this one doesn’t totally count). Oh and they cut lines- oh my god do they cut lines. Maybe it’s because of my dad’s embarrassingly indignant dedication to the principle of holding your place, (and dear god I’ve become him already!) but it drives me crazy when there’s no respect for the line. Waiting for my visa feels like preparing for battle as I try to preserve as much space as possible to gain rightful entry into the prefecture.
Continue reading

French don’t give a #@*! about being polite

We all know the stereotype- the French are haughty, pretentious and downright rude. Except that each time I’d traveled to France, I experienced nothing but kindness. Sure they might laugh at your ridiculous accent, but I found that if you sincerely tried (a.k.a. don’t barge in with the “I’m from America and we’re gonna speak my language and do it my way” approach) then they were quite nice…in their own French way.

Until I lived here. In comparison to other countries, at times I’ve felt brazen and outspoken and rude as an American with my American ways. I don’t say Ma’am and Sir (although I’m sure many Americans do) and I can be quite loud and sometimes invade people’s personal space with my weird touchy laugh habit (thanks mom). But the French make Americans look like rule bound, guilt obsessed, polite pampered Brits. Sorry British but you guys do apologize for everything. 

They don’t give a crap about your personal space, your personal problems, standard politeness or welcoming manners. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of French people who have been warm and receptive and helpful. But living here has introduced me to a distinct cultural difference of social standards. Like the girl who blatantly mocked me while sitting next to me on the train and then proceeded to completely invade my personal space even though she had TWO empty chairs next to her. Or the students who talk or text regardless of whether it’s me or the teacher talking. Or the people who cut in front of me at the grocery store or use babies to skip lines at the prefecture. Or the girl who literally sat on me because my SINGLE seat had the smallest bit of room apparently open for stranger seating. No asking, no eye contact, just big ass on my seat. I felt like a crazy person as I searched for someone to share eye contact in a “is this really happening right now?” moment but being polite is so n’importe quoi.

When I first arrived in France, my friend warned me with a story of how she was invited to three dinners before the french even talked to her. I have now sat through two gatherings where hardly two words were spoken to me. I sat as the silent, awkward foreigner, thinking about how if we were in America, I’d have a drink in my hand, know everyone’s name and be involved in some sort of conversation. It seemed unfathomable to me- it’s just common hosting sense, it’s just good manners, it’s just politeness, human decency- how rude! But apparently it’s not rude, it’s just French.

And it’s not just me. Even Paris’s transport authority acknowledged the rudeness with an ad campaign to improve social awareness.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/travel/news/sacre-bleu-campaign-to-put-an-end-to-rudeness-in-france/story-fn32891l-1226436549175

But it’s not all that bad. I’ve heard that the French are hard to crack, but once you break through, they’re there for life. And I will say that rudeness aside, the blunt way of communicating can be quite refreshing at times. But a big ass on my seat will never be refreshing- it can go find its own!