Buzzfeed published an article that lists 19 everyday situations that are impossibly difficult for the socially awkward. I would like to hit these notes because I myself, am very socially awkward. I’m an independent introvert, and I find it ironic that I spend much time studying a new language, in order to communicate with other people. When in fact, I am quite bad at communicating with others even in English.
I started to learn Spanish in 6th grade, and I hated it. I continued to learn Spanish up until 11th grade. In 11th grade I had the best Spanish teacher ever, and she’s the reason I started to learn French. She made the atmosphere really comfortable and fun, which made me eager to learn. Through wanting to learn, I finally saw the importance and pleasure in learning other languages. So, my last year of high school I took French. Seeing similarities and differences from English, to Spanish, to now French, is so amusing!
Through learning another language, it has help me overcome my fears of public speaking and new social situations. In my college French classes, I started to give presentations and speeches (of course in French). When I get other presentation/speech assignments for my English speaking courses, easy as pie. Why? Because you try and give a presentation in another language, and then see how easy it is to do it in English 🙂 I guess the lesson is “It could be worse”.
Now I would like to touch base on some of the Buzzfeed’s tasks in relation to living in France.
#2. Deciding whether you’re shaking hands or hugging (or both??). As you may know, the French kiss on the cheek when greeting. I had so much anxiety built up inside for this, because not only am I socially awkward, but I am American. So touching people I’ve just met? Ehhhhhhhh >.< So how did I over come this? Well first, breath, and pay attention to the people around you. You want to pay attention to what side of the cheek they start on (because depending on your location in Europe, or even in Canada, it is different) and see how many times they do it. In the south of France, we go in for the kiss on the right, then left, then right again. I’ve noticed that if the person is really good friends with the other person, or maybe they’re family, they kiss four times. So right, left, right, left.
#4. Having absolutely no idea if someone’s flirting with you or just being friendly. I go to some of the popular student bars, and sometimes I have conversations with people. When you only understand bits of pieces of what they say, it can be a hard game of flirting haha.
6. The never-ending loop of asking each other “how are you” when greeting someone. Everyone who studies French knows their greetings- Bonjour ! Bonsoir! Ca va? After you do these sayings, you are picking your brain for “okay what other French do I know that is a good question” hahah.
10. Ordering coffee, especially if it’s busy or a new place. Those tall iced coffees you order from Starbucks everyday? Yeah, they don’t exist here. Nor do the terms frappacino, latte, and sadly, Pumpkin Spice Latte. So in France, you better study the terms – café glacé, café, café au lait, cappuccino ect …
11. Trying to decide what to do when you’re walking into someone else’s path. So do I say (pardon, excusez-moi, désolé) ? I have noticed it is more polite to say excusez-moi, but some people do say pardon. I have caught myself saying désolé a bit too much, because sorry is usually what I say in English situations.
12. When someone actually calls you instead of texting. Yeah emailing or Facebooking people? That doesn’t really exist here. Whenever there are flyers for concerts, restaurants, jobs, friends, they only give out numbers. So you better practice your French phone adequate!
13. Knowing what to do with your arms when you walk. I am constantly worried about doing a gesture that may come off rude in another culture. I haven’t really noticed people crossing their arms a lot, it may just be in my head, but I feel rude when I do it.
16. Realizing you’re walking near someone you know. When I see a French student that I know, or meet a French person, I get that worried anxcious “Oh do I kiss them hello?” Some French people I have met shake my hand, because I think they think this is what we do EVERYTIME we see someone we know or met lol.
17. When you can’t hear what someone said, so you say “what?” and they repeat it, and you still can’t hear it. When someone speaks very rapid French to you? Yeah, that is a tough one. You only want to say pardon once or twice in a conversation. When someone switches from speaking in French, to now speaking in English to you, it is not a happy feeling.
In conclusion, challenge yourself! TRAVEL! LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE! More importantly, get out of your comfort zone 🙂 Things are never as bad as they seem, and we seem to forget that a lot.