It is pretty easy to feel intimidated as a visitor to France. There is just so much history, and culture, and people act so nonchalant about eating snails. It is all just a bit much, sometimes.
I have to admit that I too experience what I have come to term “bumpkinitis” when I am in France.
I also have to admit that this condition strikes me most forcibly and frequently when I am visiting my chic Parisian friend Joelle – as much as I adore her – in her Paris abode and all I have been able to scrounge up for walking shoes is (mon dieu) a pair of skanky sneakers.
However, I have come up with a really effective remedy for bumpkinitis. All I have to do is remind myself how utterly exotic and cool some aspects of my very non-French life is to French people.
Take my family’s cabin at Shawnigan Lake for example, where us Germains are hanging out this week, recovering from our epic trans-Atlantic move…
When I was growing up, I didn’t take kindly to spending much time up here. There were spiders as big as your palm in the shower (still are) and my grandparents, who built the cottage, ran the place like a boot camp.
Then I brought Franck up here the summer after he moved to Montreal so that we could continue our love affair over poutine instead of baguette and Camembert.
His eyes almost spun around from excitment when he took in our little slice of Canadiana; the funky little 1950s stucco cabin, the wharf, the aluminum boathouses, the ubiquitous speedboat, the row of red Adirondack chairs.
“C’est fantastique!” he breathed. Over the years his love of this place has slowly won over my aversion and led me to appreciate it in a way I never did in my younger years.
So when you think of how sophisticated French children are as they accompany their parents to chic cafe’s, just remember the glee of the kids on their tube being pulled behind the speedboat.
Or their joy at catching a trout (even a VERY small one).
And when you admire those gorgeous French baby clothes, think of how effortlessly nature-girl-ish Clem looks like in her life vest and plastic beach shoes.
Aspects of our North American lives, and especially our North American childhoods, are pretty darn cool to French people.