Okay here’s my deal today. I know that when living in another culture one must rise to the occasion and embrace, adopt or at least respect the way things are done. For the most part I’m going along with everything, dinner at 8 pm, 2 weeks to get a car registration, not batting an eye when the entire nation goes on strike and 4000 gas stations go dry (check out the BBC website for coverage in English). The French are all about revolution and the closer Sarkozy gets to his pension reform the wackier things get. We are rationing gas as I write and by the end of the week Mad Max will rule the highways of France but I digress.
What I’m on about today is all this kissing you have to do every time you see someone. I love it and I don’t. At first it’s charming and you feel like super chic European woman. It’s very romantic in a sense and good for the ego to think that everyone you see wants a kiss from you.
After a while it becomes a bit of work as it’s not as easy as it looks. First it varies from place to place. Some areas do single air kisses on each side, some three and the other day I noticed women in the town going in for the quadruple. Who has the time for that? Imagine going out for a night with the girls? Sure it’d be time to go home as soon as you finished saying hello.
Second, it’s easy to misjudge as you’re bringing your face in, one false move and it’s full on mouth kissing someone you don’t know or headbutting yourself, the other person or both into unconsciousness. Or, in my case, awkwardly kissing the air as the person walks away. Trust me, there’s no successful recovery move for this faux pas.
Also, and this could be the MD in me, but how the hell do you avoid the flu with all this kissing going on? No wonder France has the highest rate of antibiotic use in the world. If you lick everyone you meet you’re bound to be a bit more germ infested than the average person. Okay, you don’t actually lick people (travelers planning a trip over here write that down) but there is an awful lot of potential for virus sharing.
I’m thinking of creating a list of those that I am willing to kiss in an effort to save time and money on Nyquil (which you cannot get here so someone needs to send me some). But then I think of that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry refused to do the kissing in his building and became a social pariah. Probably not a good move in terms of befriending the locals.
On second thought I’ll keep on with it. It is lovely to stop and press your cheek to the warm face of another human being as a way of saying hello. It reminds me all the time that I live here now and things are done differently. So no time to sit and chat as Sarkozy is about to raise the retirement age to 62 and I’m off to set some cars on fire.