September 14, 2011

l’Esprit Francais

On our last night in Bordeaux, FBF and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and have a picnic dinner along the Garonne River. We used our new knowledge about Bordeaux wine from our afternoon spent in a wine tasting class to buy a bottle of the stuff that we felt confident we’d like. We picked a boulangerie just because the smell wafting out of the store made my mouth water. We found a formagerie and told the lady the different types of cheeses we wanted. We choose a rondelle of chevre, a slice of brebis, a piece of tome de savoie, and a slither of morbier.

We plopped down in the grass along the part of the quai that has been transformed into a park, right next to the famous miroir d'eau (fountain). The sun was still shinning. It was a pleasantly warm evening.

The Hôtel des Fermes and its reflection in the miroir d'eau

We were looking not only at the river but also at the gorgeous Bordeaux style buildings. We were surrounded by flowers. We were having great conversation. We were drinking delicious wine and eating delicious cheese. We were feeling very much in love.

As I sat there soaking it all in and feeling so very lucky to be there in that moment, to get to experience another culture and live in France, I couldn’t keep it in. I had to share.

I must have gone on for more than five minutes about how grateful I was to be eating that cheese and drinking that wine in Bordeaux, France with my wonderful boyfriend. How beautiful the city was and how thankful I was that I got to visit it. How I was having a superb vacation and I just felt so appreciative of all I had.

To which, my very very French boyfriend replied, “oui, c’est vrai, c’est pas mal quand même (Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s not so bad).”


  1. Isn't that just like a man. Here you are rambling on about how wonderful everything is...The wine, cheese, view, living in France, your love for him and all he can say is Yeah, I guess you're right, it's not so bad.

    This is really cute post! HA HA


  2. That's funny you're pointing that out because I often say the same kind of thing as your boyfriend did. I don't know if using the negative form to express something positive is very French but I'm not suprised at all he said that. French people have the reputation of being grumpy - and they actually are ! - so maybe resorting to the negative form to say something good is our way to express contentment without letting people know that the present moment is close to perfection. :-) As far as I'm concerned, I also use words like "assez" and "plutôt" ("rather") more often than I should. They tend to minimize my level of satisfaction or pleasure even when there's no reason for me to do it.

    Besides, your remark can also be reversed. I have a very good American friend who lives in Lille. Although she's been living in France for about 8 years now, she always seems pretty enthusiastic about a lot of things, including food, wine, arts and basically anything typically French. And she does not use the negative form to let us know how excited/happy/satisfied she is about these things. Even though she had plenty of time to get used to all the "French goodness", she has not lost her capacity for wonder.

    So in the end, either your boyfriend's "not so bad" means that French people will never feel totally satisfied OR your reaction just means you're still happy to taste the awesomeness of being in a foreign country (and I hope you won't lose that). :-)

    Oh and have you heard of that French actor and humorist François-Xavier Demaison? Before being an actor, he was a trader in NY. He came back to France after the 9/11 events and then performed in a one-man show in Paris. There was a sketch in which he imitated Americans in a French restaurant. I can't find it on youtube but if you ever have the chance to watch the DVD of his show "Demaison s'envole", you'll probably laugh at his way of confronting the American and French cultures based on his experience as an expat.

  3. Kris: Thank you! It's said that the French are critical and Americans are cheerleaders. I think this story pretty much sums it up!

    Emilie: I think what it comes down to is purely cultural. French people are more critical and Americans are more excited about things. We're the cheerleaders and you're the critical thinkers! I think it's a combo of the two. I'll keep my eye out for the comedy sketch, thanks for the recommendation :)

  4. It sounds all so French to me. I think it is mostly how americans feel in Fance. The natives being natives see this all as the norm and so don't appreciate the French of it all.

  5. Hey Laura, Just found your blog and it's hilarious.. and this post is so not surprising based on my experience. Enjoy the rest of your trip in Bordeaux!

  6. Life is in the details, and you my dear found love in a moment-its a great feeling when you catch it happening.

  7. Mike: That's true too! It's easier to appreciate things when you have nothing similar to them where you come from.

    Victoria: Thank you! Welcome to my blog :)

    Jenna: It was a wonderful moment, and it was almost made better by his French-critical-negative remark in a way. It was like, "yeah, I'm definitely in France!" haha.

  8. My wife has always said we Americans exaggerate too much: "This is the best pie I've ever tasted", or "That's the cutest thing I've ever seen", etc. The French are definitely more reserved and save big statements for when they really mean it. It baffles me when walking through an old medieval town with my jaw on the ground, she says "Yeah it's ok". Wha? But I don't see it as never being satisfied; it's more about taking great things for granted when you've grown up around them, which we all do to some degree I guess.

  9. elke12: My dad made the same point about the French growing up with this stuff and us not having anything like it in America. I definitely think that plays a part in it, but overall I'd say the French are more critical and Americans are big cheerleaders.


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