Friday, June 28, 2013

China People

If I remember correctly, toward the end of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and Company journey southward to visit Glinda, "the good witch," they run into trouble in the "China country."
Stumbling across a society of beings composed wholly of delicate porcelainware, Dorothy and her companions quickly lose goodwill when they cause the delicately made China cow to break under the shock of their careful entrance. Berated by the "China princess," the leader of the China people-for not only harming the cow but causing deformity- the gang discovers a society that is not merely physically vulnerable but mentally obsessed with maintaining the "perfection" of their form.
Sadly, this story seems a telling analogy for my own encounters with Parisians.
I have gotten lectured at by a bartender for requesting to use the bathroom without paying for a drink.
I have been refused service at a coffeeshop for approaching the waiter about ordering rather than taking a seat beforehand.
I have learned that in restaurants, bars and even shops, one does not ask something, one requests it (and that if you walk in, you consent)
A whole system of etiquette governs public affairs here that I still have yet to fully understand. Its especially troubling that the Parisians try to share with you by example, i.e. expecting that you should "know better," American Philistines be damned.
Going out the past few days has opened up my eyes to the importance of image and manner to Parisians such as to make me rethink my conception of French (and European) culture(s) as increasingly "Americanized," one which I had developed around the young English-speaking students on my study program in Iceland.

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