Cross Cultural Confusion
Confusion, that’s what living in another country creates. When we type in English, we put two spaces after a period. In France, they use just one. BUT, they put a space before a question mark or exclamation point, maybe to make up for the other spaces they're missing. Since I type emails in English and French, my fingers get easily confused and I find myself putting too many or not enough spaces as I type. And it looks a little weird to have a space before the question mark, don’t you think ? Or does it? Now the question mark right after looks a little close to me. And sometimes I have a hard time finding words in English too, like there’s some French word that comes to mind and I really would rather use it because it fits just right.
Expressions can be funny too. Cheese, for example, has a special place in French culture. There is a board game where the players work their way around a large chunk of cheese, but at times they can take a short-cut across. This is called “cutting the cheese.” When an American says “cut the cheese” it means something entirely different. I was with a French friend once and was surprised to hear him refer to a BMW car as a “BM.” I warned him to make sure to add the W if he’s ever with a group of Americans, because having a BMW and having a BM are completely different experiences.
Then there are units. I may never be able to rattle off my height or weight in kilos or centimeters. It is embarrassing renting skis and having no idea what you weigh. But I have to admit that my metric tape measure is a joy to use. The other day I was down in the garage, needing to make a measurement, and all I had handy was my tape in inches. My mind seized up when suddenly I had to think in fractions. Ten is such a beautiful round number, why do we insist on working in twelves and threes? Does it go back to the disciples? The tribes of Israel? Our gas prices don’t look that bad until you realize there are almost four liters in one gallon.
Finally there is the exchange rate. The value of the Euro has fallen dramatically recently. I’m happy that it has gotten lower, because that’s helpful to us. What scares me a little is how quickly the change has come. If it can fall that quickly, it could rise again that quickly. Things seem so unstable. For the time being, your gifts are going further. And we thank God for your partnership with us!