This post originally appeared on Meuse-Argonne.com.
The Webmaster enjoys people watching at airports–especially watching Americans at CDG who are returning home from a trip to France. Broadly speaking, they fall into two categories: Those who adapted to a different culture and tried to fit in; and those who thought everything in Europe should be done as it is in the U.S. The former group had a wonderful vacation. The latter group had a horrible vacation; complaining about the lights going off in the hotel hallway, the small size of cars (for over-sized American suitcases), etc.
As can be seen in “La Vie en France #28” and “La Vie en France #29” living in any foreign culture for an extended period of time can have its ups and its downs. Two things can help insure that tourists have a positive experience: Flexibility and cultural training. (Actually, readers might also want to learn a little basic French; but that is not the subject of this post.)
Flexibility is required simply because things are not done uniformly around the world. The Webmaster could scream and shout as much as he wants, but that is not going to change the French two-hour lunch break. In that case, all one can do is adapt.
Cultural training will make it easier to adapt. One does not have to obtain a degree in cultural anthropology before travelling abroad; but one should spend a few hours learning about the country and cultural expectations of the country(ies) one plans to visit. One good way to do this is to read one of the many good books on French culture. Years ago the Webmaster chose “Savoir Flair: 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French” by (now-deceased) Polly Platt, an American who spent most of her professional life as a journalist and cross cultural trainer overseas. While the book is a bit dated, its cultural tips are still viable today It is also a fun, easy read. In the early days, when the Webmaster was a relatively inexperienced traveler to France, he would pull it out and read through it quickly before each trip. Armed with this cultural refresh, he found he could be at more ease in a foreign culture. This helped to ensure he was in the group at CDG that had an enjoyable visit to France.