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let's get a drink?




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?

20 comments:

  1. I was just talking about this with an expat friend of mine! It's so interesting to me that what we perceive as a polite gesture (even if it is an empty one) is taken as rude in another cultural context.

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    1. You were? How funny! Quel topic du jour!

      It is interesting, isn't it? When I first came here, I was all about the empty promises and had a French girlfriend of mine call me fake! I felt awful. I honestly didn't follow up because I didn't want to disturb her because she seemed so busy.

      I swear, the world is brimming with misunderstandings. I wish I could say it gets better as we get older, but unfortunately, it doesn't.

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  2. I totally agree, while the French are much harder to break into, they are much better friends. They actually do see and hang out with their friends regularly, whereas we Americans can go months without seeing our friends! One of my bridesmaids I haven't even seen in person since my wedding two years ago. Eesh!

    Moving to France has really made me spend a lot of time thinking about friendships - old ones, new ones, French ones, etc. It almost feels like getting divorced and having to get back into the dating scene - I was so comfortable in my old friendships that don't know what proper etiquette is anymore! It has certainly been a learning experience.

    Thanks for the reminder that if you really value a friendship, you've got to make the effort and follow through and actually spend time together.

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    1. You are so spot on, Stacy. My French girlfriends get together with each other way more often than I see my friends here (I think though that we are more connected via social media). Cracking into the French girl code took a while, and even so, most of my girlfriends are the wives of Aurelien's friends.

      In regard to old friends: Coming here, I held on super tight to my old friendships, putting them on a pedestal where I was almost shutting out the option of creating new friendships. It wasn't until my wedding that I realized that perhaps some of those friendships had seen their shelf life and sadly, we had grown apart. Since that experience, I have opened up to the girls here and found that there is room for new friends. So go and out and give it a try! It'll be worth it. : )

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  3. This is a great reminder! I'm so glad you and I follow through on our plans! ;)

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    1. I'm guilty of not always following through! Hey, stuff comes up. But I try! Two words: November. 18th. That's whats up. ; )

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  4. So true! My best friend from HS and I have drifted apart over the years because of this. Each time we would make plans to meet up for drinks, more often than not she would cancel and want to "reschedule" the day we were supposed to meet up. I am more surprised if she actually shows up/doesn't cancel than I am if she actually sticks to the original plans. Really sucks. But I just know she is unreliable so I know there is no point. I know I am not always innocent either and often drop the "lets get drinks to catch up" with friends who I haven't seen in a while without always falling through. This is a great reminder though, just put it on the calendar, ya know - it's really that simple - and so worth it to maintain and keep important friendships I have made over the years.

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    1. Oy! Now that's just plain rude. Constant "day-of" cancellations are the worst! Carving out the time and putting in the mental energy to go out with someone is a lot of work, especially as we get older.

      But yeah, we're not robots, we can't always be available. Schedules fill up. Since I got married, I'm realizing our weekends (with the exception of this one) are usually booked up weeks in advance. It's crazy. Between his friends, my friends, family, my mom coming into town, or house projects, weekends are just as jam-packed as the week itself! Tell me, fellow wife, Is this normal?? : )

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  5. Took me a while to realise these casual invitations from from Americans are just polite conversation. Total strangers would invite me to drop by thier house in kentucky or someplace after a a conversation in a restaurant. . I really though they were serious but I now am sure sure they would be shoked if I actually turned up.LOL! Love Denise.

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    1. Hi Denise!

      Aurelien's friend told me that it happens in London a lot as well, but he said not as nearly as often as it did in New York. For Americans, I honestly think we say things like this to fill space. It's a clean and somewhat polite way to wrap up a conversation.

      In Kentucky, they may have just welcomed you. I hear the people are much more warm and friendly outside of the major cities! So you never know!

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    1. I waited...you never showed. :P

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    2. Alas, my red sparkly shoes are on the blink right now, and the police call box down the road is downright refusing to Dr Who my arse over there...

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  7. Finally finished your blog :) Maybe we can "grab a drink" when I move to France in 2014! Cheers and thank you for letting us in on your life.

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    1. Wow, thank you Clarissa! That must have taken a huge chunk of your time, so really I thank you. I know a lot of the earlier scenes were more juicy (drama!) than what's going on today as I settle into a more quiet life, so I hope you enjoyed it up until present day. : )

      Good luck with your exciting move! Are you moving to Paris?

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  8. It was a shock to me when I realized, many many years ago, that "let's have lunch sometime" actually meant " don't call us, we'll call you" sorts, kinda. So French Canadians are very much like the French in that regard. Mind you, I am guilty of the " let's have a drinks" that don't pan out... And like you, they are meant to happen but life gets in the way. Guess I'm right when I say that both English and French cultures are part of who I am today and that in one province and one language I'm one person and in the next, quite another. I'm schizophrenic, basically;)

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    1. I think we are all guilty of proposing plans and not always following through on them, the French too. It's only human. I think Aurel and his friend were saying that it is done more freely, they have found, with Anglos. In other words, we tend to talk a lot.

      Hahaha, it's funny once you realize you connect with both cultures and are able to turn it on and off depending on your environment. You're not schizo, you're someone who blends! : )

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  9. I'm one of those annoying people who when asked if I want to meet up for a drink sometime, will usually hound the person with my planner perched open for a commitment, while Gregory is the opposite, he loves throwing out invites to people that he never follows up on. So tell Aurel's friend that some French people do it too :)

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  10. You know, now that your friend has pointed it out, I realise how many empty promises we've given (and received) as well. It's usually a 'Let's grab a drink" or "We should go for dinner" but often results in nothing. I'm going to try and be a bit more aware of that now.

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  11. Interesting, and one that I never do. I feel like it's way more common in some parts of the country (or maybe even state), but where I come from (cue country music) we just didn't do that. So when I went to study abroad and heard Americans doing that it boggled my mind!

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