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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Culture Shock: The Difference of Friendship

Back home I have 4 close girlfriends.  We've been friends since I was all zitty, 5 sizes bigger, awkward and discovering my own personality.  All the other friends I've made from Portland were usually flakey, fake, insincere and suprisingly good at pretending they give a flying F.

Now, I'm not bitter, of course, I was lucky to have some close friends.  I'm only regretful the friend society isn't even close to friendships in France (and potentially all of Europe).

Have you ever met someone (girl or guy) at a party or a social outing, gotten their number, and then totally forgot they were in your phone?  Even though you promised you would call to get that beer, to buy that shirt, to come weed their garden- n'importe quoi?

Ever had a birthday party where you went ALL out- bought cake, suprised them, did something awesome.. but then they never did it back to you?

Well. I have.  That was often my experiences.  I used to get so exasperated about friends in Oregon I'd throw pillows and whine, yes whine.  I'd call my mother (my emotional vomit bag) and complain about friends not calling me, my lame-ass birthday..


I didn't believe Bri when he said it was an Oregonian thing, I threw it off saying, 'no way.  it's a people thing.  people are inherently selfish, they don't give a hoot and they'd rather stare at themselves in the mirror then send a simple text or pick up the phone.'

France... oh.. the differences.

Here in France friendship is kind of like learning how to ride a bike, there are all these base moves that come before and then once you have it it's guaranteed you won't forget- and they won't forget you.

Friendship is Earned
In France, a friend is not someone you just met once.  It's a person you often have seen a few times, you've gotten their number, you've had a beer.  In the beginning French people seem frigid, even snooty, but in reality they are warm.  Once you are able to crack the shell, the softness of their friendship will blow you away.

Examples it's True
My 23rd birthday was on Saturday night, to celebrate we invited 25+ people to our 62m2 apartment.  That night I was blown away as 6 friends, that I've never bought gifts for, and I'll admit I was totally 'Oregonian Flake' to, brought me beautiful perfect gifts.  The Oregonians I invited were exactly how I would have been back home, you come with a beer, you have some snacks, you leave.  I was surprised by two Oregonian girls who brought me artisanal bread and wonderful jam (which went great in the morning), and another Oregonian guy (coached by a Frenchman) that brought a keg for everyone to share.

At the end of the night, it was me and 8 French people.  One person shouted, 'ATTENDS, EST-CE QUE C'EST VRAI QUE C'EST TON ANNIVERSAIRE SASHA??'  I smiled, and nodded.  I only expected to be told, 'salutations' or congratulations..

The whole room became silent, all 16 beady French eyes on me.  Glasses of champagnes in hand, they took a deep breath and much like the Who people in Dr. Seuss's 'The Grinch', everyone started singing, full chorus...

Bon anniversaire!
 Bon anniversaire!

I stood torn between agast and shocked.  Why so shocked?  Because in the United States, I've only been sang to like that by waiters with candles in free slices of cakes.  I didn't have to remind anyone it was my birthday, didn't have to beg for the song.. it came natural.

And the most shocking...

The girls who started the song stated clearly, 'dans deux semaines, Sasha et Brian, vous êtes invitée chez moi!'   (in two weeks, brian and sasha, you are invited to my apartment)

Just like that.
I suddenly realized that this sensation of French friendship was actually a really good thing.  They call when promised.  They invite you to their place if you invite them to yours.  They bring gifts and good wine.  When they smile- it's not an uncomfortable social smile.. it's a true smile.

As much as English is easier for me to speak, I realized that in only 3 months that I've lived here I've experienced more friendship and hospitality from French people than I ever experienced in Oregon the whole time I lived there.

So, my recommendation to you:  Get yerself some French friends, ASAP!  :)


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