Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Friday, May 8, 2009

Besides several men referring to me in the "masculine" form in French, there were a few other things I found a bit strange. First and foremost was the number of men who touched me - now, not inappropriately or anything, but there was a lot of backslapping or arm-touching going on during jokes and greetings. Have worked in France for so long, I've gotten used to not having any physical contact with my customers other than a handshake hear or there, so it really took me aback. Even more so since it was in a country where women and men don't generally mix, and where foreign women are often looked down on. So now I'm wondering if they've just decided to treat me like a man because of my job?

The second odd thing was how they all completely burst out laughing when they saw me sitting cross-legged. Now, part of my job during these visits is taking inventory of all of their parts, and they sure had a lot of them, so I finally got tired of bending over and just decided to sit down. The main guy walked by the room I was in, and did a massive double-take. And then he came in and asked what on Earth I was doing. I was confused for a second until another guy walked by and did the same. The two of them were literally doubled over laughing at the fact that I was sitting cross-legged on the floor. A couple of other guys came over to see what the fuss was, and they did the same. They were all practically crying because they were laughing so hard. And I still have no idea why - I kept asking, but they were laughing so much no one could get it out. I thought I heard something about how they only thought Tunisian women did that, and they didn't ever expect to see a foreigner sitting like that. So maybe it's a demeaning posture? Later on, one of the other guys told me that all the women in his family sit like that when they make organ patties from the annual sheep killing (forgive me for not knowing the name of this celebration). But I still don't know what the big deal was.

And the last thing that I was a bit surprised about was how much they eat with their hands. They kept laughing at us wanting to use our silverware all the time. For anything - things like chicken, fish (heads, scales and all), coucous or these really yummy crepe-like things. All of that food is so messy that it just didn't seem polite to be digging in with my hands during a business lunch. But I guess maybe it's not a problem since the women and men usually at separately...

If anyone has any explanation for any of these things though, I'd be really curious to hear what it is!!

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