Parisian cafe culture may not be as relaxing for those not accustomed.
There’s a buzz of chatter from the Parisian cafés overflowing with customers — a cigarette tilted between the fingers of many, as the haze of smoke slowly fades out of view.
A woman raises her pointer finger, flicking her wrist for a few minutes until she attracts the waiter’s attention.
“I didn’t order this,” she said. The waiter crosses his arms with a Gallic shrug, shaking his head as he bluntly disputes. She responds, sharply.
None turn to look. The interchange is natural. And the backlash is one to which Parisians are accustomed.
For the foreigner watching, however, the exchange seems rude.
With spring semester approaching, college students nationwide are putting their final touches on preparations for a semester of study abroad. Four months of life away from their university, far from the familiar comfort of home and soon to be immersed in the differences of life abroad.
Studying abroad gives students “a greater understanding of other places and people — how they think and how they live,” American University (AU) senior David Silberman said.
It’s a process of adjustment that students will transition through; the cultural norms in America don’t necessarily apply to life abroad.
Parisian culture, for instance, is one that finds the American standard greeting “How are you?” superficial. Yet, it’s a culture that expects the politeness of a “bonjour” as customers enter a store. It is rude in America to argue with a customer or forgo the smile when dealing with a client. But in Paris, it is rude to speak loudly, disrupting the otherwise calm atmosphere. Unlike in America, Parisian restaurants are typically understaffed, and in the absence of a tip culture, waiters have little time to feign friendliness.
Preconceived notions can skew the manner in which students observe life in their host country. The concept of “rude,” for example, is a social construction defined by students’ own societal norms. Does it work to translate the American definition while abroad?
“By wanting to [study] abroad, you agree to be open-minded about the people and the place where you are living and take the differences as they come,” said AU senior Kendall Jackson, citing her spring semester in Paris.
And the result? A shift in perspective that influences students to look at the world in a more globally minded way, Jackson added.
By letting go of preconceived notions, students can accept without comparing, observe without judging. The foreigner might view the Parisian waiter arguing with his customer as rude. But it is the globally minded student studying abroad who understands the interchange is merely a difference in culture.
Powered by Facebook Comments