America is a fast-moving country; we’re always on the run, full of stress and adrenaline. Out of the countries I’ve visited, the U.S. definitely has the fastest pace.
In France, as in many other countries, life doesn’t move nearly as quickly. You just moved halfway across the world and want to get Internet in your new apartment to touch base with your friends and family back home? First wait in line at the Internet boutique for two hours while the agents leisurely help each customer for four days in a row and then get connected in just two weeks!
You need a cell phone after you arrive to contact your new coworkers and determine the specifics of your new job? Sign up online and get your phone activated in ten short days!
Want to buy some new clothes at the mall? Wait in line to try on said clothes for 30 minutes and then another 45 minutes to pay at the cash register, all in a hot, stuffy, cramped store!
Have a hankering for some gourmet French food at a sit-down restaurant? Hope you’re not too hungry and you have a clear schedule – you’ll get your food within two hours.
You need a quick answer from a fellow teacher (French) regarding a class you have in twenty minutes? Just forget it, you’re gonna have to wing that lesson.
While at first I tended to get frustrated with slow-moving life in France, I was forced to accept it and have patience – it was either that or have a nervous breakdown. On the upside, the French are generally very lenient and understanding about time-sensitive issues, so being somewhat late or not completing a task on time is not usually a problem. When meeting with a French friend or coworker, I always purposefully arrived 15 minutes after the scheduled time, which was usually just in time for their arrival.
Even though it was often a bit stressful to adjust to this laid back lifestyle, over time I learned to prefer it. Now, I strongly believe in the importance of learning to enjoy life, not just rush through it in an attempt to constantly be climbing some type of ladder.
The other day while standing in line at the Elixir coffee shop in South Bend a woman said to me when asked if she was in line, “No, you go ahead. I’m not in a rush. I’m too old to rush.”
Well, while I’m not old, I am too French to rush.