If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.

~ John Cleese ~

In Defense Of French

November 7th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 3 secs

French pleasures go a lot further than the Eiffel Tower.

Once, I thought all the ballyhoo about French food and style was trumped up nonsense. Nobody could really be that enamored with doing dishes that well. And style? Well, plenty of places own their own style. Surely, that’s a matter of taste.

Since then, I’ve concluded you can only keep this kind of thinking until you actually visit France. Because, once you discover what French food is like, and essential French style, only then can you realize what you’ve been missing.

For me, experiencing French cuisine and the delights of French thinking were so intense, it was a shock. I discovered things that, up until then, I didn’t even know I was missing. Then again, when you live down on the bottom edge of the world, perhaps that’s understandable.

So, what am I talking about? Well, simple things really. Many fine places around the world have extraordinary cultures that are at once astounding and wonderful to discover. But often, their best can feel a tad too exclusive; being reserved for those more cultured. To me, that’s where the French do so well because they celebrate their values at every level. Even regular people have an appreciation for the qualities of good food, and the inherent pleasure of experiencing something beautiful every day. I love that.

Of course, there are many other fabulous things to discover in every culture and tradition. All have their combination of strengths and weaknesses. So maybe one reason I find French traditions, foods, and sensitivities so appealing is because they seem to grasp what most English speakers are missing.

There is a certain intimacy about French thinking that’s curiously blended with formality. Externally, it seems kind of quirky. Yet, when you are there, it makes perfect sense that you’d drop everything for a fresh baguette, flirt with the shopkeeper, and then take a special trip into the village to buy a bouquet of flowers.

I see many familiar European features in French approaches, including a down-to-earth awareness of life tied to respect for traditions. Yet, being French, it feels somehow unique, leaving you in no doubt where you are.

Is everything French really so ideal? Emphatically, the French themselves would answer “non”. But there is a world to like and love about all things French. Like the way French folk tend to cultivate an appreciation for the best in what’s commonplace. That’s beautiful (just as it is in all cultures that practice that valuing).

When it comes to fine foods, celebrations of beauty, and an endearing view that elevates the familiar to something special, I suspect few would argue. French people deserve a salute. And for everyone reading who is thinking, “Huh! He has no idea how good our traditions are” I look forward to being educated to discover the delights that you already know so well.


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