What can we take back from our sabbatical to Amherst? I really want to bring back my favorite sculpture in Lyon, this huge metal bouquet of flowers, and put it in the pasture. Our neighbors, Sue and Richard, have a lot of cool, colorful art so I think they would approve. It would be an obvious improvement over those rusty soccer goals we have out there now. Since this is unrealistic, as is bringing back our favorite boulangerie around the corner, we’ve been thinking about parts of the french lifestyle we can take home. I don’t even mean the mid-week prix fixe lunches with wine, because as nice as those would be for my coaching sessions with teachers, I realize they would cost me my job in South Hadley.
But here are a few ideas we’ve talked about. Brace yourselves, our partying friends! The French enjoy delicious wine but consider the size of their pour. It’s small and people sip one or at most two glasses vey slowly over dinner. It mirrors their portion-contol-approach to food. Eat every single rich, delicious thing you want, just eat small amounts of it. And as hard as this will be for our academic friends to believe, Ray can’t get into his office at the University of Lyon on Sunday. Not just because he is a visiting scholar. NO ONE is allowed to enter the building on Sunday and no one shows up on Saturdays even though they technically could. It seems they aren’t at home working away all weekend on their computers either. The French understand that while work is important, it is not important enough to do every day.
The question becomes can you take what you love about one culture and bring it home with you where the norms and expectations are so different? (And leave behind the parts that you don’t like so much…) Well, we can certainly try! We love the French greeting, too, one kiss on each cheek. None of this awkward wondering what to do when you meet someone or see people you know – should you hug, shake hands, smile or simply give a friendly wave. So everyone reading this should expect two kisses when you see us, one on each cheek (and since we’ve been in Lyon, you turn your head to the right first, kissing the air by the left cheek. Apparently in other parts of France you turn to the left first and/or give three kisses, so I guess they have to deal with their own awkward greetings, too….)!