Tuesday, October 23, 2012

... and on the flip side...

After sharing some of the confusing behaviors we sometimes observe in Americans who live in Paris, I started thinking about how a few Parisians we've met view the USA.

In French literature, there is a rich and varied body of work devoted to cowboys and indians.  The books of le petit Nicholas (by Sempe-Goscinny) have several chapters devoted to the wild west.  French radio (FM105.1, in particular) plays a lot of American music.  Department stores and supermarkets pipe in all manner of music that was generated in the US.  American cinema fills the city.  Reading through the weekly l'officiel des spectacles, nearly half the publication is given to listing cinema events throughout the city.  Much of that has also been created in the US.

Moyen Age

Many of the upper middle class working Parisians we have talked with have visited the US.  And of those who have visited, a surprising number of them have children who live and work in America.  All of them (so far) seem surprised that anyone from the US would choose to live in Paris.  They wonder what we see about living here that they don't.

In my worst possible French, I tell them that is appears la pelouse est toujours plus verte la.  Something about the greenness of grass and it being not where you are.

Some Parisians have a very clear, strong impression of America that we, as former residents, could only feel.  And that, from a remote, distant kind of sensation.

For example, someone observed that Americans are continually divided against themselves.  That person could not believe how racial minority Americans constantly "put each other down".  They were shocked they did not support each other, as they do in France.  Instead, they said, these groups seemed to express nothing but anger within the communities they live.

In another example, someone observed that American politics is more circus than reality.  They noted how moronic the whole play of position, power, and governance seems when viewed against the much more serious political backdrop of Europe.  Berlusconi not withstanding (a little inside joke, this).

Vrbain Constant

In general, what the French seem to like about America are the wide open spaces.  More than a few people we've talked with have noted the same liking of American open space.  Some French appear to like working in the US more than in France.  Apparently, working for a corporation in France can be hell.  I don't say much about certain rollup or private equity companies in America.  I figure if they found a great job in the US and if it's better than what they could find here, more power to them.

It's increasingly obvious to me that the world we live in is not simply black and white, good and bad, right or wrong.  As Jean Paul Sartre's author of the forward to his "Being and Nothingness" says, there are as many valid points of view as there are viewers.

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