TL5 “Conversations” Danielle Tomlinson, Paris

“Worldviews important as they are, are not only shapers of ethical norms… Two other forces that help to form values- environment and history” (Hess 51) For my interview, I spoke with my French language and culture teacher. He is a French native who was born in Brittany. He admitted that unlike the other departments of France, Paris is much more metropolitan and tends to cater more to the tourist scene as it is the most visited capital in the world. In his eyes Paris is very much like London or New York City, except with a touch of French culture. When I asked him about the ten cultural contrasts many came back to be in fact the contrast culture. That being said, four cultural contrasts stood out to me most. The French value tradition over change; equality over hierarchy and rank; modesty over boasting and formality over informality. My teacher warned me that these values are very important to all French people. He even went on to explain that in France, you do not ask someone about their political views, religious standpoint or economic standing. He was quick to explain that this is not because the French people do not care about the wellbeing of their fellow countrymen and women. It is rather a sign of respect. There is a concept in France, that regardless of their situation, view, race, colour or creed, once a person is born in France or has French citizenship then in fact they are French. Unlike the United States of America, my teacher claims, there are no hyphenated citizens in France. No one is considered “Italian-French”, “African-French” or “Muslim-French”. Everyone is simply French. Thus cultural values such as modesty, formality, tradition and equality come into play. “Cultural learning includes everything: a people’s history, industry, art, institutions, communication patterns and values” (Hess 45) Paris is filled with a unique history that has shaped its institutions, art, communication patterns and values. One often hears reference of the revolution in 1789, or the remodeling of Paris by Napoleon. And even to this day, the effects of that history is felt. It has helped shape Paris into the city it is today. And because of its unique history the values aforementioned have remained. France is a country of tradition and equality born out of the revolution. It is also a country of modesty and formality as with the language and culture you must adhere to certain rules. You could never address someone’s grandmother the same way in which you address your best friend. And in France, they emphasize heavily on the fact that less is indeed more. Not many French women wear a lot of makeup and jewelry. A simple necklace and some lip gloss is enough to suffice. My professor and many others also freely admit that women’s rights in France are not as progressive as those in the United States of America. And so there are certain things women must do so not to invite men to talk to them or approach them. Again, the values of modesty and formality come to the forefront of my mind. “ Cultural learning at its best is inclusive, not only in the scope of one’s involvement (cognitive, affective and behavioral) but also in the range of life it brought into the curriculum” (Hess 45) It is the details such as this that contribute greatly to my cultural learning as I am able to be fully aware and cognizant of the fact that I am living in a country where individuals operate differently. In my opinion, I believe it was imperative to have that conversation with my professor because as much as one prepares to live in a country, issues like cultural values aren’t something easily found on Google. Cultural learning requires the individual to be present and aware in all aspects of life from everyday interaction in the supermarket to how to behave in the metro. Actions and reactions are different in every society and culture. So what may seem normal to me, in fact is not. It may be offensive in other cultures. And as I start to emerge from the liminality phase, I have started to become more conscious about my actions towards others in public and in the private sphere of my dorm. This allows me to realize that in order to culturally adapt to the country of France, I must operate with open mindedness, willingness to learn and acknowledge what mistakes I have made while culturally learning.

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One thought on “TL5 “Conversations” Danielle Tomlinson, Paris

  1. I love how you mentioned that cultural values is not something you can just look up on google and it takes open mindedness and a present mind in order to learn and understand the cultural values of each country as values are something that many people can have very different opinions of based on ones own values and we can’t expect to conform to what we hear through search engines when we may look at those values very differently based on our own life experiences and values of our own.

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