Europeans in the US: Seeing things from their point of view
By Bryan Pirolli—
We always experience culture differences as foreigners in Paris, and I’ve written about it before. (See my previous post “Are Parisians Rude?”) But what about the other side of the coin? How do Parisians react when visiting the States?
During a holiday luncheon with some Parisian friends while in New York, we Americans were allowed a rare glimpse into what the French find striking about our own culture, from tipping to the color of our money.
Money, money, money
My French friends first discussed the differences in money issues. Why are American bills all the same color? How much do you tip a cab driver? Why are telecommunications so expensive?
They marveled at the things that we take for granted (after all, the euros do feel like Monopoly money to us sometimes).
At the end of the meal, willing but frustrated with trying to calculate the absolutely un-Parisian gratuity, they just said, “Tell us what we owe,” and the bill was settled by the American locals at the table.
Far from being pretentious fashionistas, the smartly-dressed couple did comment on the fashion sense, or often lack thereof, among Americans walking the streets. Why were people wearing such goofy hats and earmuffs? Why were there so few lingerie stores? Where in the city does one find nice affordable clothes? Wasn’t this a fashion capital of the world?
We gave them our opinions and suggestions, trying to convince them that in America you can leave the house without getting dressed to the nines, and they were in awe. After having purchased a few sets of fleece pajamas at Old Navy, they started to see the perks of living Stateside.
After discussing how delicious pancakes were and observations on the general availability and size of food in America, the Parisians did wonder a few things. Do Americans eat vegetables? Is everything really deep-fried, as it would seem?
Why do you call them “appetizers” when they are actually “entrées” in French and you call them “entrees” when they are “plats” in French? It seemed to them as if American cuisine were deliberately messing with their heads.
But they weren’t complaining. On the contrary, they were elated to have a real hamburger, to enjoy crispy bacon, and to discover that in fact they could order delivery to their apartment whenever they wanted. In Paris, the idea of delivery isn’t as widespread as in New York, and far less variety exists.
It was at this point, imagining having all sorts of cuisine at their front door that they started asking about moving to America…