On spring break of 2012, my school took a select group of French students to see France itself. Unless one counts going to the Bahamas on a cruise, this was my first time really leaving the country. Little did I know, but this trip would be a life changing experience.
We got a taste of the countryside, as the first place we visited was called Bayeux. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was not commercial like America; one could not imagine finding a McDonalds or Walmart downtown. America’s politicians talk about small business all of the time, but they don’t know small business until they visit small town France. Another interesting tidbit about Bayeux was the narrow streets and lack of cars. Sure, there were some people driving around, but for the most part, people walked around to do their shopping. Because the French buy their foods in season, there are few preservatives in their food. They only buy food for one or two days at a time; therefore, they can carry everything that they need. We in America need to think about adopting this healthy lifestyle. We would not only get the exercise we desperately need but also eat naturally as well. Bayeux is a prime example of what a small town could be.
The group then headed on to Paris, my absolute favorite city I have visited. There is a stereotype in this nation that the Parisians are very rude people, but my experiences prove otherwise. If one is not loud and obnoxious, the Parisians do not mind one’s being American. However, it is considered rude to be loud in a restaurant or café. Therefore, it is only polite to abide by their culture, as one is visiting their country. Another piece of French culture that is apparent in Paris is their appreciation of historic preservation. Like any major city around the world, Paris has a financial district. However, it is about two miles out of downtown Paris. Why is this? The Parisians did not want massive, modern buildings to be built next to former palaces and courts. They did not want the historic value of their city to be diluted due to new forms of architecture. They think it would be stupid to have a huge office building next to the Louvre. As a history nerd, I think this is an awe-inspiring concept. Nowhere in America do we have this mindset. In New York, one could have a modern building as a neighbor to a 250-year-old home. Modernism ruins the effect of preserving the past for future generations.
Although there are many things in France I admire, there are some things that I think we do better in America. For example, I did not like the aggressive driving style of the French. Thank goodness we had a bus driver because I would have had a wreck! They accelerate very quickly and are prone to bump into each other. The French have a bad case of road rage.
Overall, I think that there are many things we as Americans could learn from the French. They are a very sophisticated culture that looks back at their extensive past to improve the future. They attempt to resist corporatization, have a healthy lifestyle, and preserve their architecture. Certainly, America is among the greatest nation on Earth; however, we should look to these values to improve our own nation.
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