She's in Love With a Frenchman and France | Pinay.com
Lately, the New York Times is on a roll with articles that are extremely critical of the French culture. There was Roger Cohen’s recent article titled “France Decapitated” that criticized the French economy and another by Mark Bittman called “French Food Goes Down” that details the demise of French cuisine.
For as long as I can remember, the American (and perhaps, the British) press has had a bizarre love-hate relationship with the French. There is no dearth of negative articles on France in the American media yet at the same token some of the best-selling how-to books in the US in recent history have involved the French, including Mireille Guiliano’s “Frenchwomen Don’t Get Fat” and Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bébé.” France remains the most visited country in the world, according to therichest.com and it is the fifth most visited country by Americans, says LA Times.
You are probably wondering what all this gibberish is about and what my French connection is. Many years ago, I met and fell in love with my own prince charmant, a Frenchman from Brittany. We have been married for 18 years now with two lovely French-Fil-Am daughters. Before we started a family, we decided to somehow deepen our ties to France by purchasing a cottage in Normandy where I spend my whole summer observing and learning the ways of the land.
So what is it about France and the French that attract many to visit or even stay? What attracted the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald or Hollywood figures like Lenny Kravitz and Sofia Coppola to live here? I think it boils down to the joie de vivre (or joy of living) that is still present in the French culture despite the pull toward modernity. In this day where technology prevents us from being mindful, the French’s predilection toward a full two-hour meal where texting and phone use are hardly used is indeed a rarity in our modern world. I also see it in the way people take time to do their food shopping and the effort they make to prepare food that’s seasonal and healthy. Mind you, they are not all like Julia Child, always preparing well-kept family recipe secrets. That type of cooking is reserved for family holidays and special events. Instead, they are likely to prepare a simple tomato or beet salad eaten with grilled French merguez sausages that were purchased at the local markets.
The other thing that attracts visitors to France is the aesthetics. There is pride here in making one’s shop or house a place of beauty regardless of size. While this is true for many European countries, the French aesthetics is still quite distinct from those of the Italian or Scandinavian—not as elaborate as the former and not as stark as the other. The French take the time and pleasure in presentation. Just walk through any town center in France and you’ll see how each shop is distinct from one another. No two bread shops or even pharmacies will have the same feel.
While I agree with the points articulated by many journalists and political pundits about the flaws of the French political system and economic structures, I think that France will prevail despite almost zero economic growth and recent brain drain as some of its’ talented citizens choose to move to the UK and the US. As the Philippines experienced with its own brain drain in the 1970s, the Filipinos who left eventually came back to reinvest in the country. I believe the French will do the same. One’s ties to the motherland are never completely severed.
Myla Lopez is a blogger and photographer and formerly an advertising and marketing executive. Her lifestyle blog, beautesimple.com, focuses on travel, food and motherhood, with a multi-cultural perspective. She is married to a Frenchman and reside in Northern New Jersey.