Posts tagged 06/08/2011
Judgments About the Silliest Things

Sometimes when I listen to people from one country describe the people from another, I can’t believe what they are actually talking about.  The behavior or difference they are discussing seems to be so neutral or unremarkable that I can’t believe that it has been noticed at all.  The silly little behavior that they are describing is, of course, actually an iceberg.  Below it lies a much bigger structure.

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Smiles are the Tip of a Huge Iceberg

A number of years ago, my friend Jennie and I decided to write a book together about living in France.  We were tired of all of the (anglophone) books out there that repeat the same  stories about going to the market, or waiting for the artisan to come, or talking to the rude neighbor, or being amazed by the wine or the amount of wine.  Or the fact that Mitterrand had a mistress and everyone was OK with that.  In 14 years maybe 50 people have told me this as if I hadn’t heard it yet.  We were incidently also tired of the same types of books written about the U.S…. the stories about fast food, or ignorance of something, or ways of being religious, or being religious at all.  Or especially of how easily people tell you the story of their life on a bus, but then do not invite you to Christmas dinner, dammit  (I am putting myself to sleep now).

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