An almost daily conversation in my home goes something like this:
Me: "I'm so excited for/to/that/etc.!!!!!"
Chris: "Okay/Cool/Nice." (If I'm lucky I get a "Niiice.")
Me: "It's not exciting to you?" or walking away in defeat.
The French don't even have a way to say, "I'm excited." If you say, "Je suis excité" it means you're aroused, which maybe you can say to your spouse, but you probably don't want to run around France telling everyone how excité you are to be in France.
I had a very global upbringing, and generally think I'm very understanding of cultural differences. Heck, I grew up living cultural differences. That's the thing though, meeting someone from another culture, and passively experiencing different cultures, or even experiencing cultural differences from time to time is not the same as LIVING cultural differences. Every day becomes a cultural experience.
Being your typical, easily excitable, smiley American, it can sometimes be quite difficult living and sharing a life with my less emotive, less smiley French husband. I know, that sounds weird, but despite being married and knowing that he's 100% who I was meant to marry, these cultural differences lead to a lot of lost in translation moments, which are sometimes difficult and a lot of times funny. I feel like Lucy and Ricky. Chris and I are Lucy and Ricky to a T.
In France, it's like in Russia, where if you smile too much they ask if you're feeling okay or not. There are times I've been really disappointed, thinking that he doesn't care about what's exciting and important to me. The differences can sometimes make you feel like you're on different pages, which to me is scary. However, learning, understanding, addressing, and communicating the differences is really important and often provides some sanity.
Chris found an article in the BBC the other day that specifically addresses this issue of expressing excitement, and I'm grateful I'm not the only one who struggles with this in a Franco-American marriage. The article, which you can read here, explains why that is. The French are very much about being "in the moment," so they take 2 hour lunches, and don't obsess over the future. I mean, I'm pretty sure there are also other reasons for 2 hour lunches, but I won't get into that here.
The thing is, I don't ever expect Chris to become as giddy as I am 85% of the time, and I don't ever want to stop being smiley and excited. However, together, we do have to find ways to communicate in each other's languages. It's a lot like learning each other's love languages. Some people feel incredibly loved when they receive gifts--I am not that person. So, Chris knows he can't buy my love, and he knows what does make me feel loved.
I still find it difficult to sometimes know if he's indifferent to what I'm excited about, not paying attention to me, or if he's just being French. I'm like an annoying child vying for her parent's attention. A few weeks ago I went to try out the new boulangerie that opened up near us. I came home with a baguette and after he tried it I asked if it's a good baguette, because it's not easy finding a good baguette in Los Angeles. When he acknowledged that it is good, I was so excited because finally I could bring him a piece of home--a more expensive piece of home, but a delicious piece of home! He did not bounce up and down like me, or crack even the slightest smile. He just kept chewing with his super French face. Part of me still felt like a defeated child. Sometimes you just want a sign that you're doing good, or that the other person feels loved, or feels SOMETHING! However, I also realized he's just being French and as long as he doesn't say it's bad, terrible, or disgusting, then we're good.
So, it's definitely still something I'm getting used to, and time will tell if I ever get used to it, but we certainly poke a lot of fun at it. I even started capturing and captioning photos, "On a scale of French to Justine..." where he's making his normal face, and I'm smiling like the unicorn inside is about to shoot out on a rainbow shooting star."
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