19 March 2008

Deciphering the French Nat'l Character

So, I've been thinking about what composes a nation's character. What are the ingredients to creating a person of any nationality? Certainly ingredients include such grand historical events like myths of independence and national sins such as slavery, genocide and the like. I would like to throw the education system in there as a crucial ingredient.
I'm sitting in a class, en Français, and a pair of students have a presentation to do. They have their handouts ready , crisp and clean, they pass them out, speak articulately,as far as ,y foreign ear is concerned and everything is lovely.
At the end of the presentation, or exposé, I'm ready to give these people a well-deserved clap. My hands draw together as if there's a magnet between them, then I stop and ascertain the situation.
I'm the only one moving at all.
Applause is not about to explode over the room and these students are not the least bit concerned.
My mind flies back to every presentation I've ever done stateside. People will clap, for the most part, whether you just gave a Nobel Prize winning oration or just got to the front of the room and started speaking in tongues.
We , American students and teachers,seem to reward the effort. I've even said to people before, " E" for effort.
Not so here in the land of France.
Not only does no one applaud, but then the professor proceeds to critique the two , in front of everyone and their mama. I'm looking around like WTF and ask a guy sitting next to me, "est-ce que c'est normale?" He looks back as if I asked what denomination the pope is or from which direction the sun rises and replies, "oui". This practice of calling people out begins in elementary school from what I've been told.
That's when it hit me and everything made sense.In my mind. My thesis is that the French indulge in PDA because they don't get enough,and this is a scientific term, "warm fuzzies" through out their education. To compensate for this as they get older they react in one of two ways-making out in public places and/or shooting people really judmental looks. Maybe this system is better to toughen kids up. But I'm going to go with a negative ghostrider.
This is just my first step in understanding the French as a national character.
You can't really blame them though.

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