Living in the être

I recently came across a BBC Travel article titled “Why the French Don’t Show Excitement” in which an American woman describes her experience relocating from the United States to France.

 She states that the move helped her learn just as much about the culture she came from as it did the French culture she was adopting. “There’s nothing like cultural nuance to remind you who you are at your core: my Americanness became all the more perceptible the longer I remained in France” she writes.

 Her French teacher at the time described the difference between the two cultures with a theory:

 “You Americans live in the faire [to do]. The avoir [to have]. In France, we live in the être [to be].”

 I can’t help but relate to the teacher’s theory. To be – it sounds so simple but it’s something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. Caught in the consumerist and “to do list” driven culture of the West, I have completely forgotten what it feels like to simply be. I have been conditioned to equate the “to be” behaviour with laziness and unproductivness.

 To me, a day spend without crossing something off of my lengthy to-do list feels like a day wasted. To a French person, it’s a day enjoyed.

 My question is, how do I train my mind to think like a French person in the Western world?

 The article goes on to tie this “theory” to the West’s obsession with excitement and the lack thereof in the French culture. Did you know that the French language doesn’t have a way to express excitement at all? Funny enough, the word “excité” translates to “arroused” – not the kind of emotion you’d want to share with anyone but your other half!

 So why are we so caught up in being excited about this or that in the Western world? Could it be because our minds tend to live in the future, whereas the French mind exists in the now? As the article states:

 “Life in France places you happily in the present tense.”

 I highly encourage you to read the full article here – it certainly gave me food for thought and I hope it does the same for you!

 Tanja

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