Sunday, August 5, 2012

Got Me Begging You For Merci

In traditional blogger fashion, I’m going to attempt to incorporate some form of cultural insight and theory into this post which has the primary function of providing me a platform to vent.
                In Paris this weekend, my friends and I experienced a culture shock perfectly crafted out of stereotypes and hearsay.  At our hotel, when prompted to pay for a three persons’ stay, we were still accommodated with a two person room. We were charged for what the website promised was a complimentary breakfast. When I asked the hotel attendant to confirm this, she feigned an inability to understand my questions. (I later heard her converse with two other guests in perfect English.) Finally upon checking out, the clerk attempted to charge me a second time for our reservation. He apologized with a smile only after I politely leaned over the counter to point out my signature on a receipt of payment he had printed out and stapled to our entire bill.
                While enjoying a picnic dinner on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, we were approached by a group of French students who decided to sit down next to us without any kind of greeting. One of the girls was literally rubbing thighs with Rachael for minutes until she introduced herself. The conversation that ensued consisted of weird flirting and insulting that culminated in one guy’s declaration that we had “brooms up our asses” and we’d be better to “look beautiful and not speak.”
                Our entire time in Paris, (which we did enjoy immensely despite these occurrences) we’d attempted to be as friendly and cooperative as possible, but our American status seemed to automatically label us naïve, stingy, privileged, and conceited. It really hurt my heart; the French have us pegged so wrong. I also found this evidenced in their translation of the new Step Up movie set to premier this summer.

                Now, I’m not denying that sexuality is a prevalent aspect of this film and much of its appeal probably comes from the sexiness of its main characters. However, the film is supposed to be about a group of dancers “stepping up” to the challenge of using physical movement to inspire change and express themselves-not simply to look hot. This ad makes me feel that America has been overly simplified into a culture of shallow materialism in the eyes of the French. This sentiment was only augmented by my personal experiences with the Parisians. Has anyone else encountered American culture that seems distorted or lost in translation?
                I guess I couldn’t consider myself fully cultured unless I experienced at least one instance of the negative connotation that sometimes accompanies my nationality. I do hope to visit Paris again one day, but hopefully I’ll be doing so with a better accent and a stronger spine. Merci very much.


  1. I’m sorry for your bad experience in Paris, and although I cannot say I am surprised, I don’t know that Paris is the only city to harbor these sentiments, surrounding Americans (though Parisians certainly are apt to show it more than other citizens). When we were in Dublin this weekend, we saw the same ad plastered on buses, posters, billboards and the list goes on. I’m not really into this series of films, but from what I found, the American version was called “Revolution,” not “Miami Heat,” and it pictured a different cover photograph. Can anyone verify this? If so, it would seem that the old adage “sex sells” still rings true (at least in Europe).

  2. Unfortunately, my experience with Paris was all too similar with yours. We were also lied to by our hotel in multiple instances. The city is absolutely gorgeous, but the culture that the people live kind of ruins it for Americans. I would be interested to know if all tourists of all nationalities experience this or if it is just Americans. The first night we arrived we went running. Towards the end of our run I tripped and fell. Two Parisians who saw the whole thing stood there and laughed. They did not check to see if I was okay or to even see if I was laughing. They just pointed and laughed. I was baffled. You would never see something like this in the South. It is truly unfortunate.