a Frenchman!

French American wedding"Marriage is about resolving together problems you would not have on your own."  I was recently invited as the panel “expert” on Franco-American couples and wrote down these tips. My husband and I benefit from/struggle with obvious cultural difference, but doesn't every couple experience them to some degree?  

(When my husband of 17 years learned I was speaking, he had a coughing fit and demanded to see the “real” expert!)

Mme. Married to a Frenchman
Paris, France

Chère Madame,

Félicitations! (Congratulations!) Welcome to the adventure of building a cross-cultural family and of living in Paris. What’s a story without ups and downs?

Find Yourself. Busy, beautiful Paris can be a lonely city…and your gift to know you better. You’ll wonder, “Ils sont fous ces Romains!” (“These Romans are crazy!”) Worse, your husband may think like them! Working though what makes you laugh, uncomfortable, excited, or confused helps you know what you believe and why.

Feedback. You’ll hear, “C’est comme ça,” and “Ca ne ce fait pas.” (“That’s the way it is,” and “It’s just not done.”) They have reasons—buried in the treasure and burden of their past—for what we consider quirky behaviour. “I wonder what the history is behind _____” will get you the answer or help hubby question whether to integrate that practice in your family culture.

Frenchness. Your Americanism will remain appealing as long as his Frenchness is not unattractive. When he fell in love with you, you weren’t French. You don’t have to be now. When you married him, he was French. Let him still be one.

Forgiveness. American dollars read “In God we trust.” The French rave of the separation of church and state. When President Obama admitted his mistake in cabinet appointments, the French radio recalled President Mitterand’s words: “I won’t go to confession.” No matter who is at fault in your altercations at home, your Frenchman might not “go confess.” Be the first to make up.

Food. “For the family you will take the time that’s required the meal to make.” (My husband’s French proverb) Our regular family meals consist of three to five courses: starter (optional), main dish, salad, cheese (optional), and dessert. Everyone finishes the course before we move on to the next one.

Femme. Walk out the door ready to seduce. No sneakers and sweats in the city. Frenchmen’s virility goes hand in hand with their women’s exciting attractiveness.

Fit. The French educational system is excellent for round pegs. If your child has angles, the French consider he’s the problem. With your husband, identify your mutual goal for the kids and keep it in focus.

Future. “Will I have to live here forever?!” Paris changes people. “Back home” may soon seem strange!

A + (See you later),

Denise Dampierre

P.S. We were given Raymonde Carroll's book Evidence Invisible (Cultural Misunderstandings in English) for our wedding. It's written by Raymonde Carroll, a French sociologist married to an American one. They realized their marital disputes touched deeper than personality. Glimpse at the book covers below & grasp a feel for the different cultural approaches!

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