Some Thoughts on French Culture & Adolescents

It rained this morning,  the day remained windy and grey. I’m on the roll with waking up at 7AM-ish. After eating an early breakfast  I did some yoga and pilates. For the rest of the day my arms remained sore. The day passed, we had dinner then I went on a walk to Menton in the cool night. It is only a 15 minute walk from the house to the border, but to walk to centre-ville it was almost 45 minutes. On the way back from the town there were some fireworks being lit by the shore.

Later I passed a man who looked at me funny. Yes, I know I am not from around here but no offense taken. “Bonsoir,” I said just to ease the awkwardness of his stare and he replied the same. Okay, that was that and I continued making my way home. Hearing footsteps behind me on the rocky shore, I turned to see the same man again. I knew he was up to something, so I asked him what he wanted but remained polite. If I heard him correctly in French he asked if we could see each other. Trying to be as blunt as possible I asked if he was searching for prostitutes…wearing a tank top and shorts I was beginning to feel unnecessarily strange. He was a little embarrassed and said that he thought I was being inviting as I greeted him earlier. Oh great…I explained to him that I am from America and that saying good evening was simply a friendly but meaningless gesture. Sure enough he was on his way back to his sitting spot. I was relieved that he was understanding and left immediately after.

After talking to host mom about it, I learned that greeting strangers is not very common in larger cities. When one greets a stranger it usually means they want to get to know someone better. Important lesson learned…sometimes being friendly can be commonly perceived in the wrong ways. This should be helpful for the weekend trip to Paris. There was also a firework show on the cap.
The encounter got me thinking about some cultural differences. The main ones I can address are for the adolescents or people around my age. After a month, there are some thoughts floating around in my head. Just for discretion, there is no intention to offend anyone. These are solely opinions from an outsider’s view on a different culture.

It’s summer time, school is out, the beach is just a step away. As amazing as it is to spend the days at the beach, I am genuinely curious about what  teens/young adults usually do with their time.
Sports clubs, or recreational activities…I really wonder what topics or interests people are passionate about. I miss having meaningful conversations with people and learning about interesting  things people are passionate about.   No doubt in mind there has to be more than meets the eye. However at the moment, other than activities such as partying, playing video games, going to the beach or working a summer job, I remain curious as  I have only encountered 2 people of similar age.

Recently I have been listening to TED talks for a jolt of some brain stimulation. Some interesting TED talk lectures: Depression Is a Disease of Civilization (Psychology), Can we eat to starve cancer? (Science, Nutrition), How Benjamind Button got his face (Technology, Film), Your body language shapes who you are (Social psychology).

Next, the smoking.  I have a problem with the smoking in Toronto already, but it’s not much different in Cote D’Azur either. When exposed to them long enough the smell of cigarettes and cigars gives me migraines. And when I don’t have migraines, it’s allergic symptoms like sneezing, itchy nose and  congestion. I keep saying to myself that one day I will wear a breathing mask when I am in public.

The smoking culture is definitely visible and particularly in the young groups.  It is shocking to see kids who look 12 years old inhaling and young teens socializing with cigarettes. What’s even more disappointing is that some teens even smoke beside their parents. It happens in America too, but smoking around your children is not only bad for their health, it is also a negative example to learn from.

I have never tried smoking and I have no intention to in the future…I won’t even get into the health effects of it at the moment because that is a whole other topic. However, I can understand both sides of it. Personally, I just think that there are so many other things to do besides smoking. Eat gelato instead of sucking the life out of a toxin filled roll, learning a new hobby, reading, go shopping or watch a movie for example. Is it boredom…curiosity…peer pressure…the norm… or simply addiction? I can only ponder on reasons why young people stumble and grow on it.  There is so much more I would rather do with my time, money and health.
Isn’t that such a cute post-card? It is making its way to Toronto in the meantime.

The last main cultural difference is outgoing nature of most children. Certainly all children are unique in their own ways, but the ones I have met seem unafraid to be noticed as playful and outspoken in public.  It is something I find very adorable yet different. Maybe it is because I forgot what it was like being around younger children, but seeing children being so talkative and open early on meeting is a good relief. However, there are also some horrendous stories my au-pair friends have told me about. I will just say that I have much respect for the work au-pairs take on.

I’m off to bed for a few hours and then departing to Paris for the weekend. See you!


2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on French Culture & Adolescents

  1. While living in UK for an year, I experiences the similar behavior of teenagers and youngsters, socializing with cigarettes and booze in the public place and no adults taking notice.. That was disturbing!
    Thanks for sharing your experience!

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