If you know this blog at all, you will not be surprised to learn that I am an expert in French culture, a merciless one. As luck would have it, I am also an expert in Europe in general and in Germany in particular. That’s because the media one uses to follow French affairs unfailingly tell you about European affairs.
Here is an example of my pan-European expertise: Do You know what German Chancellor Angela Merkel does with her old pant-suits?
She wears them!
The problem with stereotypes is not that they always carry falsehoods but that some are true but it’s hard to distinguish the correct ones from the urban legends and historical fables.
Here is a tenacious historical fable held even by lawyers: Under French law, the accused has to prove that he is not guilty.
It’s just not true, not even a little.
I read the French daily Le Figaro on-line almost daily. I see it as centrist as you can get. It’s well written (not a given with contemporary French press and the silly desire to appear with it*). It ranges far and wide.
There is an piece in it today that shows once more that the French are serious about their vacations. The title asks: “Is it possible to make love in the ocean?” It’ s clear right after the third paragraph the question does not refer to fish or whales which do it all the time in the ocean, as most of us realize. The author implies the question for humans. Nevertheless, there is an allusion to dolphins who purportedly do it often and really, really enjoy it. (Damn, damn! Not only are they smarter than I am, they have a better sex life.)
Anyway, after supposedly consulting “sexologists,” author supplies a liberating positive answer to the question. Yes, she says, you can do it; it’s fun but if you do it where the water is over your head, make sure you don’t drown.
On the one hand, I exclaim: “N.S.!” On the other hand, I think: “What a way to go!”
French culture is interesting but not for the reasons you probably think. It’s a good counterpoint the better to understand American culture. Some wise man (or maybe a “wise old Latina” as a current Supreme Court Justice once said) declared: “One who knows only one country knows no country.” You got to compare to understand.
French culture, like other contemporary European cultures, is strangely deficient in some area, in many areas, actually. Here is a link to an introduction to the topic, right on this blog
I don’t imply that you shouldn’t go to Europe this summer. It’s a quality museum. The food is quite good in some countries, in France, of course, and in Italy but also often, in Spain.
Of course, if you are under thirty and have no children and you vacation in Europe you are probably a wimp. When are you going to go to Burma, to Paraguay? When you are sixty-five?
* For the record: “au courant” does not mean “with it” or “edgy” as semi-lingual journalists seem to think. Those two words just mean “well informed,” and “up to date.” I don’t want to catch any of you making this mistake again.