Q. As an American bachelor who has recently moved to France for a few years, I am intent on creating a social life for myself that includes as much contact as possible with French people. I keep hearing about cultural differences, and am a bit shy about making overtures to French women for fear of violating some major cultural taboo. Is there any guidance you can give to help me overcome what is becoming a (I think) ridiculous obstacle?
Q: I am moving from the States to Paris in the fall with my 6-year-old son who will attend a French public school. Since he doesn’t speak any French I worry that he’ll be traumatized when he realizes he can neither understand a thing, nor make himself understood. How can I make the transition easier for him? A: Children learn languages faster than their parents. They are far less self-conscious about making mistakes than adults are, and make frequent use of body language that is pretty much similar across cultures. Still, to help the process along, here are a few suggestions. Continue reading “Can My Kid Cope with French Schools?”
Q. I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Paris, and up till now, I’ve been (I think) really hospitable to friends, family and even friends of friends who have come to town to visit. Recently I’ve realized that I’m not looking forward to these visits the way I used to, but I feel guilty when I imagine myself saying “no” to people who want to stay, as I’m sure their feelings would be hurt. On the other hand I get really resentful at having to put my life on hold every few weeks. I’m sure many people have this problem and I wonder how they handle it.
Q: A friend of mine has suspected for a while that her husband is having an affair at his office. Although she has pretty strong proof, he repeatedly denies it when she tries to confront him. Personally I find his behavior inexcusable, and feel that she should just get out and get on with her life. She’s a wonderful person and it hurts me to watch her go through all this suffering over someone who doesn’t care. Can you give me any tips on how to help her make the break? Continue reading “Her Husband is Having an Affair”
Q: I’ve been married to a Frenchman for about 15 years, and we have a 10-year-old daughter who attends a French school. Though she speaks English, she is far from fluent. I would like to take her back to the US for a school year so that she can get a solid base in the language while she is still young. In addition, I feel a strong need to reconnect with my family, particularly some elderly relatives who are ill and whom I would like to spend some time caring for. Because of our precarious financial situation, regular visits home have never been an option for me. Continue reading “A Need to Reconnect…”
Q. We’ve been living in France since the beginning of our married life, and for more than 20 years my American wife has been complaining about my French compatriots. She criticizes just about everything: our habits, our culture, our behavior, etc. I actually sometimes agree with her comments, but her criticisms are continual and systematic, and I’m finding it more and more difficult to put up with them. What can I tell her to get her to change her attitude?
Q: I’m about to start my second year in France, and while I have enjoyed being involved with the English-speaking community since my arrival, I would really like to branch out this year and create some ties with the French. My language skills aren’t great, but part of the problem has been that I haven’t found a way to use them. Are the French as hard to meet as everyone says? Do you have any ideas that could help me? Continue reading “French Hard to Meet”
Q. Our family recently returned from a very nice but costly vacation in Italy. Although I am grateful to my husband for giving us this opportunity, the trip was one more example of what I consider his constant overspending of our resources. Our children are young, and I can’t work here, so we have only his salary and bills, bills, bills! Putting money aside for our kids’ education, a down payment on a home, extra retirement income – to say nothing of possible unemployment one day – all that is a foreign language to him. He just laughs off my concerns as being premature or fuddy-duddy, and says we have plenty of time to worry about all that later. I toss and turn nightly with frustration and worry, wondering how to get him to face reality and get down to some serious financial planning.
Q. This issue must come up so often in Franco-American couples such as mine that I’m amazed no one’s written you about it already, or did I miss something? It concerns the visitors, including in-laws, who stream continuously through Paris – and my apartment – during the summer. Yes, my wife “sacrificed” home, friends and family by moving here to marry me! Yes, her parents have the right to see their daughter and their grandchildren! Yes, Americans take pride in their tradition of hospitality! But after ten years of running a “pension de famille” for my wife’s compatriots – who, granted, obligingly thank us with Bloomingdale’s placemats or coffee table art books, plus the obligatory dinner out – I’ve had it! My wife tells me I should move to a hotel when guests come, but isn’t that “le monde à l’envers?” Some advice, and quickly, please! Continue reading “I’ve Had It With House Guests”
Q: I came to France over a year ago to study French literature on a junior year abroad program. I’ve been studying on my own and am officially on leave from my university in the States. I’d like to specialize in international relations in graduate school and become a diplomat. At the same time, I’m really more interested in literature than anything else, and I’d like to stay here for at least another six months. I feel that living here is the best way to give myself time to think about the future, but my parents are pressuring me to go home. Do you think that staying here can help me with my career plans? Continue reading “Will Staying in France Help my Career?”
Q: How can you tell when a person is an alcoholic and not just a social drinker? My partner (he’s French) drinks at least one bottle of wine every night at dinner, and I know he drinks at lunch, too, though he usually eats with business associates. It really bothers me, especially now that the holidays are coming up, and I wonder if there are any statistics about how much wine or hard liquor consumption qualifies one as an alcoholic? I’m sure there is something wrong, but whenever I try to make him see that, he gets angry and accuses me of being a puritanical American who doesn’t understand French culture.