Yesterday Matt and I were at a surprise 30th birthday party for one of his longtime friends. Now, I have been living in France for a year and a half, and one thing I doubt I will ever get to used to about French culture is the fact that their parties, holiday meals, group gatherings, etc. last for hours. The problem I have with this is that most of that time is spent sitting at a table, and usually there are long waiting periods in-between courses (of which, there are 4-5: the aperitif, the main course, cheese, dessert, and coffee). I get restless very easily, so after 3+ hours sitting in the same seat, I become very agitated.
But this is part of French culture. Their culture is very strongly focused on their food, and it is quite normal and expected that when you go to someone’s house for a meal, or when you go to any type of party, you will be sitting, eating, and talking for hours on end. Americans do not do this. We are too fast-paced for this kind of lifestyle. This is why our culture is more focused on activities and shared experiences. All of our holidays involve eating, yes of course, but what else do we always do? We go places…we go see fireworks on the 4th of July, we go trick-or-treating for Halloween, we play football in-between our Thanksgiving Day courses, we go shopping or go to the movies during Christmas time. We never stay at the table from 1-7pm.
I love France. I love the more laid-back lifestyle and the adventuresome and travel-minded attitudes. I love the food! And I would love to one day even enjoy their table-dwelling parties and mealtimes. But right now, I prefer American celebrations, and that’s ok in my opinion since I am, you know, American.
And one last thing–I had a wonderful time at the party we went to yesterday, and that is probably because it was outside and we were free to get up and walk around! Plus we were able to catch up with some other friends whom we haven’t seen in a while. But I can definitely see myself slowly growing more accustomed to the “French way”, and that makes me very happy :)
(And another aside–French wedding receptions are much much more enjoyable, because there are plenty of games and activities throughout the night. I would even go so far as to say that they are probably a lot more fun than American weddings in that regard. I had an absolute blast at our French reception and at the only other French wedding I have attended. I just don’t want anyone to think that I find French parties, meals, celebrations, etc. to be awful because that couldn’t be further from the truth–I am just describing a part of the culture that is hard for me to adapt to. Ok, end of disclaimer!)