For the first time since the September return, I had a quiet weekend where nothing and I mean nothing was planned; no parties, dinners, drives out to the country, nada. While those are all wonderful ways to spend the weekend, sometimes a full two days spent at home to tidy up, watch reruns and sleep is what's necessary to fully restore for the impending week.
Aurélien who has been working longer hours than usual was thankful that we were on the same page. His plans consisted of preparing his seasonal pumpkin soup from scratch, Grand Theft Auto 5, and a Skype date with one of his childhood friends who now lives in London. During their chat, his friend asked to speak to me because he had a little bone to pick with me in regard to one of my posts: The one about the French being closed off to random chit-chat.
With him currently living in London, and having spent several years in New York, he agreed that many Anglos tend to be more open with strangers and yes, the French, his people, aren't as open as we tend to be. He then added, "But what about you guys?"
What do you mean what about us? What about us?
"What's up with you always proposing to get a drink and most of the time it never happens." he said teasingly, enjoying the opportunity to challenge an aspect of my social culture.
"Ah yeah," I said looking off, "I guess we do sort of do that. At least I know I have."
"You know, I used to actually pull out my planner to schedule this mythical drink you guys always promise not realizing that it doesn't mean jack shit!"
"Oh come on, it does mean something," I intervened, laughing off the jack shit comment, "Well at least at the time it does, but you know, life happens, schedules fill up. The plan goes through eventually."
With that, I stopped myself because we don't always follow up on plans. Heck, I knew a girl out in LA where our "friendship" was based on this theoretical drink we were always talking about getting. This went on for years. It finally ended when I moved back to New York. So yeah, Aurélien's French expat buddy had a good counter-argument to my original post. We love to talk but there is not always weight holding down the words.
"You guys may be more open to small talk," he continued, "But what's the point of talking to everyone if it doesn't really mean anything?"
Playing the non-committal dance of "let's get a drink" which has replaced the 80s "let's do lunch" to us is socially acceptable, even if we don't always get around to doing it. When I first moved here I was constantly making plans that may or may not happen, thinking this was common. It wasn't until I was actually called out on it by my French friends who told that it comes off as rude, while adding that it's just better to just say nothing. I think that it was my American need to fill space and to avoid silence; a habit that accompanies the nervous laugh and always saying sorry. Sometimes I can't help it.
Now years later, I'd like to say that I know better (at least I hope I do!), but it is always nice to get a refresher course in social etiquette in your adopted culture. While you guys know I like to tease the French for giving us, or rather me, a hard time with cultural differences, I think with this one, they're on to something. So who's up for a drink this week?