kathryne goes to france


cultural confusion
10 April 2007, 9:53 am
Filed under: europe, exchange student, france, french culture, paris, study abroad, travel

I spent my day in Paris surrounded by tourists. As I was trying to make my way through the crowded Musée d’Orsay, people were speaking different languages around every turn. Hearing American English, French, German, British English, and Chinese, mixed in with languages I couldn’t even identify, was completely overwhelming. I didn’t know whether to say “excusé moi” or “excuse me” or or “désolée” or “sorry.” I feel like an idiot when I say “excusé moi” to Americans, but do they even notice that I’m American anyway? And does saying “excuse me” in the correct language matter if we all know what they mean? Besides that, when I’m surrounded by as many Americans as I was today, should I start talking to people in French or English? Which is the better bet? It’s so confusing.

I can’t decide if all Americans really are as uncouthe as they seem over here or not. Granted, we’re out of our element when we’re in Europe. We’re not used to being surrounded by different languages everywhere we go. We don’t know how to travel on a subway system because we’re accustomed to driving cars everywhere we go. And I probably shouldn’t be talking about the kids in Musée d’Orsay who exclaimed, “Dude that sucks!” because I say that all the time.

Not only that, but do all the other Europeans walking around with me just seem more sophisticated because their style and body types are a little more in line with the French? And do I just assume that they’re having conversations about significant topics just because they’re speaking in a language that I can’t understand? Are all the Italians running around saying the Italian equivalent of “dude that sucks” after all? Do I just think that they’re talking about something important because it sounds prettier when they say it?

Je ne sais pas. I’m off to Rome tomorrow. My head’s still spinning from seeing so much art at the museum (I feel like I just read my entire art history book at once) and I have to wake up insanely early tomorrow morning to catch my flight.

Lessons learned today:
Rousseau is awesome.
Realism is a bore.
Americans are amusing.

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