Submitted by Jeff Buster on Fri, 05/18/2007 - 13:11.

When I was traveling a number of years ago in Santorini, Greece with a young woman I still know,  I had an experience that doesn’t happen much in this country.   We were eating dinner in a small bistro when volla! The waiter came to our table with a bottle of wine and two glasses, filled the glasses and left the bottle  – announcing that the wine was “compliments to the lady” from two men at another table.  That was great!


This morning on BBC radio news there was a 5 minute discussion of whether or not it is good to offer compliments between the sexes (or not) in public.  The upshot of the discussion, including interviews with various Brits on the street - was that the British are not very fluent or frequent with compliments.  Then a French woman was interviewed.   She said that in France a man had once given her roses on the street – and she didn’t know him and never saw him again.  The French woman spoke with confidence and poise – in accented English.  All she had to do was talk and she would attract flowers…she had power in herself – perhaps nurtured by those vary compliments she seemed so adept at handling.  Listening to her, I was reminded of the photo I took of guests at an inlaw’s wedding a few years back.  You can see they’re French.   Don’t they both look great!


So why are the French comfortable with “I love your hair in that braid”, or “Great color in that tie”, while saying that to a stranger here in the USA could put you on a weirdo or predator list.  Compliments can be given without a leer – and  received without suspecting ulterior motives.  Instead, our neighbor’s and the strangers on the streets all walk by silently with out making eye contact.   I find that it is usually the developmentally disabled who are the only folks who are still able in passing on the sidewalk  to look me in the eye and acknowledge the weather or a piece of contemporary news. The attorneys, the doctors, the highly educated - stride on looking down or straight ahead….incommunicado.

French-wedding-guests-DSC00.jpg521.81 KB

C'est bonne, c'est mal

My sister is going to Belgium next week and is brushing up on her Flemish/French.  We are all so bad at communicating. Thanks for trying.  I guess appreciation for beauty or good design in America is considered leering and the originator of the appreciative looks is considered vain.  This is still Puritan America.