The typical traveler to Japan, China, or Africa is more open-minded than the typical traveler to France. The fascinating rites of the Chinese, Japanese, or Zulus may cause travelers considerable discomfort and inconvenience, but travelers in these countries tend to accept the obstacles stoically, reasoning (rightly) that things are just done differently in foreign cultures. For some reason, when it comes to the French, North Americans drop this reflex. When North Americans are faced with France’s peculiar way of doing things, they do not reason that they are dealing with an ancient people who have their own way of doing things. Actually, they accuse the French of being inefficient, overly bureaucratic, unhyigenic, and stuck in their ways. And they take it personally.
Just a little food for thought from a new book I’m reading. I’ll come to the defense of the French at every opportunity (except, of course, when discussing WWII, and then it is totally acceptable to refer to them as “cheese eating surrender monkeys”) but especially when Americans harp on the French for being, well, French. As the punctuation-averse Gertrude Stein once said, “America is my country but Paris is my hometown.”
What are you reading?