What We (Americans) Can Learn From The French

So I’ve been living in France for a week and a half and I’ve already learned so much. What I despised at the beginning I’m starting to love and cherish. Upon arrival I was annoyed at how small the building signs were. In the US, it isn’t hard finding an address because the signs are big and wherever they-need-to-be. In France, the signs are small and on random buildings, and are harder to see. I’ve had to walk in faith, hoping that the next building will tell me if I was heading in the right direction. And every time I made it to my destination, so it was a smaller problem than I thought. I thought I needed more but less was enough.

Some things that I have learned from the French and will supplement them in my life when I return to The States.

  1. In France, less is most definitely more. The first meal I had with the French family I’m staying with was an array of veggies with minimum meat and minimum fat. It was all delicious, and it wasn’t smothered in butter or doused in oil. It was healthy and delicious. And it was smaller portions. In the US we eat such big meals that we don’t even realize that we’re over-consuming unneeded calories.
  2. Children are molded the way you want them to be. I will admit that here in France there seems to be a lack of churches and children are growing up without a biblical knowledge. Just skimming through some of French person’s profiles and everyone is listed as “Atheist or Agnostic.” But, despite the seemingly godless culture, (not godless in a sense of utterly detestable heathens, but more in the sense of they don’t acknowledge God in their day to day culture), they raise their children in a very beautiful way. The children eat the healthy, veggie-rich food that is placed in front of them at dinner time. While in America, in most homes, children are given a kiddie meal or can refuse to eat their vegetables. In France, the children are happy to eat vegetables and to eat smaller portions, from infancy. I saw children at the local candy store buying only a few pieces of candy. They had money for more, but they chose only a few pieces of bazooka gum and a few gummy bears. Not bags of a gummy bears, a few pieces. I was in awe.
  3. Television is not a hobby nor is it something to be watched everyday. I see children here reaching for a book rather than the remote more times than not. The TV is hidden inside a cabinet (or cupboard) and it only opened once a day. You can’t see the TV, and all the furniture is not pointed at the TV like pews to a pulpit. TV is not the greatest pastime in France. They don’t watch TV and eat. It is turned on for an hour or less. Maybe not at all. In America we have 2 or 3+ TVs in our homes. Then we wonder why the children aren’t reaching for books. We’ve raised them to prefer the TV over reading.
  4. Dinner is family time. In France, dinner is at the table, everyone must attend, and there are no electronics there. No one is at the table on their phones. None of the children are using any handheld devices. It is simply a time to eat and discuss the day. I’m aware that this takes place in other families as well, but just not as often as I would like.
  5. We can live without electronics. In France, its the 90s. Maybe it’s because I lived in NYC and not the countryside, but I’ve noticed that children in the city would rather stay inside than go running off their energy outdoors. Here in France, it’s like the 90s: kids go outside, meet up with their friends, run and play, and return when it’s time for dinner. There are electronics present: a laptop, iPads, cell-phones. Yet they aren’t used as often and the children as still excited to go in the fresh air, whereas in the US the outside is like sun to vampires.

This is all that I’ve conjured so far. I’m aware that this may not be the case for all French families, but I have definitely hit the jackpot. We consume so much in America and complain that we aren’t getting much in return. Our small, family habits definitely influence our culture.

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