I’m writing this blog post at 35,000 feet over Kansas City, traveling at a speed of 699 miles per hour. We have more than seven hours left until we reach Charles de Gaulle airport and most of the passengers are asleep, after a choice of Moroccan chicken or boeuf bourguinon for lunch. The flight takes eleven hours from Los Angles to Paris, and I enjoy flying on Air Tahiti Nui, where the flight attendants wear Tahitian dresses and a flower in their hair.
I’m comfortable in my aisle seat watching a French movie, Mince Alors!, with its double entendre title: Becoming Thin, and What a bummer! The theme is about the stigma attached to being overweight in France, (a big no-no) and is tackled in typical, outspoken French style.
I've always been fascinated by the cultural differences between the French and the British, and enjoy the posts written by my French blogger friend, Muriel Demarcus, who is so adept at pointing these out with humor. I take it one step further and compare the French way of addressing certain issues with the American way. Even if you don't understand French, I'm sure you'll get the gist from the movie trailer.
Nina, a 30-year-old wife, accepts to enroll in a one-month weight loss program in the French Alps, a gift offered by her French husband. Nina works in a modeling agency alongside her husband and is by French standards overweight. Her suave husband, with an eye for other women, hands her a gift certificate to attend a weight loss farm, while he takes off to Munich with his skinny assistant.
"You'll have time since we're not busy at work right now," he says, handing her the certificate.
When Nina has her first appointment with the doctor at the health clinic, she says, “My husband likes skinny women—make me skinny, doctor.”
"I want you to be healthy, and to loose weight for yourself, not for someone else,” the doctor replies.
“I don’t have time. I’m here to get results. I don’t care what you do, but I want results," she says.
I watched the movie in French to brush up on my conversational skills, and to immerse myself in the French way of life. There were certain scenes that made me squirm, such as when Nina says she has about five kilos to loose, and her mother-in-law says, "more like 20 kilos."
I’m not a psychologist, just a curious woman who happens to have lived half her life in Europe, and the other half in the US. Although France and the US are both multi-cultural, I do believe it's possible to identify specific traits relevant to each country.
Take for example young children. I noticed immediately how the French tend to dress their young children as mini-adults, with stylish coats, belts and hats— whereas Americans dress their toddlers as toddlers. Who knows, that might be because I live in Southern California, which is more casual than perhaps New York.
In her book, Why French Parents Are Superior, author Pamela Druckerman wrote:
“French toddlers were sitting contentedly in their high chairs, waiting for their food, or eating fish and even vegetables. There was no shrieking or whining. And there was no debris around their tables.”
Druckerman’s statement hit home when a few weeks ago I was standing in line at Peet’s coffee where I noticed a mom and her twin toddlers sitting at a table sharing a muffin. Chunks of muffin went flying, as the twins practiced tossing them, and when she left, the tile resembled a muffin war zone. Did the mother pick up the mess? No.
“Why was it, for example, that in the hundreds of hours I'd clocked at French playgrounds, I'd never seen a child (except my own) throw a temper tantrum? Why didn't my French friends ever need to rush off the phone because their kids were demanding something? Why hadn't their living rooms been taken over by teepees and toy kitchens, the way ours had?”
Yes, I do like comparisons, purely from an interest point of view. Debra Ollivier, another author who spends her time in the US and France wrote, What French Women Know. I had an opportunity to meet her and read her book.
So, yes, I do believe that French movies are more gutsy in tackling sensitive issues than American movies, and I think it's different and refreshing.
I am in Paris and London this week, and shall send photos from my trip and book event in Paris, on December 13, at WH Smith.
Sonia Marsh is a “Gutsy” woman who can pack her carry-on and move to another country in one day. She’s a motivational speaker who inspires her audiences to get out of their comfort zone and take a risk. She says everyone has a “My Gutsy Story”; some just need a little help to uncover theirs. Her story, told in her travel memoir Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island, is about chucking it all and uprooting her family to reconnect on an island in Belize.
Sonia has lived in many countries – Denmark, Nigeria, France, England, the U.S. and Belize – Sonia Marsh considers herself a citizen of the world. She holds a degree in environmental science from the University of East Anglia, U.K., and now lives in Southern California with her husband, Duke.