Mar 23, 2008

Lessons learned

Springtime feels like it's finally around the corner. The sun shone all morning on our humble chateau easter egg hunt, the weather is starting to get (slightly) warmer, and the trees are quickly turning green. All of this is heartwarming, of course, though it also signals that the end of INSEAD is nigh. My first mini-elective of P4 is over next week, most job applications are in, and thoughts are already turning to grad trip and summer plans. As for me, I'm in denial. Always the best approach.

I read something today I wanted to share with my foreign friends, who I know have been struggling to adapt in France (though as I try to explain to them, Fonty life is not France). The NY Times' Paris correspondant has bestowed upon us a "Guide to the French" in 8 simple lessons. Apparently we're quite an easy folk to understand... So here goes (make of it what you will; the full article is quite entertaining):

1. Look in the Rear-View Mirror: The French are obsessed about (their) history, and to understand us you must understand where we come from (and why we care). Fair point.

2. An Interview is Sometimes Not an Interview: A journalist's views on freedom of the press in France when it comes to the President. Can't really judge this one, or how much it differs from the situation in other countries. Also not terribly clear to me how this "lesson" applies to anyone other than journalists.

3. The Customer is Always Wrong: My personal take on this? The customer is a person as much as the service provider is, and either may be wrong, or obnoxious, and will be treated accordingly. But that's just me.

4. Make Friends With a Good Butcher: Absolutely, unless you're a vegeterian. But even then there's the fromager, the poissonnier, the caviste and the man at the fruits and vegetables stand in your local marché that you should definitely bond with.

5. Kiss, But be Careful Whom You Hug: Kissing is a must. Hugging may be an invasion of personal space. Even my 5-yr-old cousins understand that.

6. Don't Wear Jogging Clothes to Buy a Pound of Butter: If you remember nothing else about the golden rules of living in France (especially living in Paris), remember this one. It was also listed as one of the most important lessons learned by Australian journalist Sarah Turnbull in her book Almost French (highly recommended reading for any INSEAD-er thinking of living in this beautiful country of mine after graduation, and entertaining for anyone else).

7. Feeling Sexy is a State of Mind, or: Buy Good Lingerie: Duh.

8. When it Comes to Politeness, There is No End to the Lessons: For a country so universally viewed as rude, France is a place where rules of politesse are extremely complex and very, very important. I have already sought, in vain, to convince my friends of this little-known fact, and will not try again here. You're just going to have to trust me (and the NY Times).

So there you go, the French explained in eight lessons. See, now that wasn't so hard, was it?!

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