Monday, June 6, 2011

A Letter to the Editor

As part of our grade in our French Culture class we were required to write a reflection on our experience here in Dijon. It was supposed to be in the format of a letter to a local newspaper.

To be honest, I never thought I’d be unsatisfied living abroad but I can say after a little over three weeks in Dijon, France, I cannot wait to leave. I came to France, Paris specifically, two years ago and maybe it was because I was so excited to be there that I never noticed any attitudes towards me. Or maybe it was because I was with someone who knew the area so we didn’t look like tourists, but either way being in Dijon now I have never before been exposed to such a rude culture. What is most mystifying to me is the fact that the French, or the majority, are arrogantly proud to be apart of this snotty stereotype.
I understand that as a group of American college students we can be a bit on the rowdy and obnoxious side, but at the same time, I have not felt an ounce of friendliness or welcoming from the French here. The best weekends I have had so far have occurred outside of Dijon- the first in Nice and the second in Interlaken, Switzerland. I will admit that in Nice people were friendlier, which I have heard is a result of the Southern French culture being a little bit different from the Northern. It could also be due to the fact that half of the people we interacted with were tourists themselves or simply people from different European countries.
I think a lot of my newfound hostility comes from receiving a ticket after riding the public bus to our business trip to Zenith. I had two blank tickets in my purse but had forgotten my stamped one from that week in my backpack. When I tried to explain to the “ticket police” about my situation, the first acted like he had never heard the English language before and repeatedly interrupted and spoke over me in French. At one point, the second “officer” intervened and began to speak English, as if he had suddenly gained the ability to speak such a “disgusting” language. I could feel my blood begin to boil. Even though I was obviously not familiar with the rules of the bus system here, and I was with a group of six girls who all had tickets stamped at the exact same time, and I had clearly bought a book of weekly bus tickets previously, the “officers” would not budge. I knew I was in an uphill battle and the less French words I could think of to explain myself, the more the odds were against me. I should’ve kept my mouth closed and never uttered a word of English. At one point, I couldn’t fight any longer- I gave in and handed them their 30 Euros.
Ten minutes later, the rest of the group got off the bus and was walking towards us. I watched as the officers checked for stamped tickets again and could see certain people being pulled aside, just as I had. As they walked towards us, I heard two people had forgotten their tickets, but were not fined. My head almost exploded. I quickly told our French director my situation and brought her over to speak with the so-called “officers”.  I honestly thought I had been scammed. After watching them speak back and forth in French, she told me he had basically stated he has the right to fine whoever he wants. I literally could not comprehend the situation. I had not done anything wrong, other than committing an act of carelessness and forgetting my stamped bus ticket, but I have never been treated with such disrespect before.
To conclude, I don’t mean to add myself to the stereotypical group of complaining/spoiled Americans, but I have always lived my life by the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”. I believe people should be treated with kindness and respect unless they deserve otherwise. I thought at one point I would grow on the residents of Dijon, or they might grow unto me, but even after countless hours of practicing French, giving my best effort to pronounce every syllable properly, they still stick their nose up. Nevertheless, I will keep trying because instead of fighting fire with fire, I’d rather kill with kindness.

As soon as I finished writing this paper, I killed an army of bugs swarming in the corner of my room...with my culture class notes. At least they were good for something.

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