France G-I

Spread the love

Gesture (noun: from French “Geste” – body movement for non verbal communication).

Well this is a very Latin thing to do as the Italians are also groovy gesticulators. I love it, as we know that non-verbal communication is so powerful. Animated conversations are part of life here in the south and though many foreigners perceive these arm/hand movements to be random, usually they are very precise with distinct meanings. I have subconsciously and consciously incorporated a handful of gestures into my communication since living here. Maybe I can highlight one or two for you:

The Gallic shrug – raising both shoulders, sometimes with arms also lifted, palms outwards and eyebrows raised. This usually means “I’ve no idea.” or “don’t blame me.” It is often accompanied by the onomatopoeic expression “BOFF!”

“Mon oeil.” Literally meaning “my eye”, to be said as one pulls down the lower lid of the eye with an index finger. This is an expression of disbelief akin to the English “my foot.”

Kissing (La Bise or le Bisou) not French kissing!! But kissing as a greeting. Depending on the region, you will greet friends and family with 2-4 kisses on the cheek. This is also often a greeting to strangers of one’s own age to whom one is presented or mutual friends. I really like this form of greeting instead of a handshake or hug. Two men will only kiss if they know each other well. If in doubt as to how many kisses or which side to start (to avoid encounters in the middle!), let the other person make the first move. The only time it can be a bit of a pain is because it is also a leave-taking gesture, so, for example, at the end of a wedding as you leave you should kiss goodbye, everyone you greeted on arriving!


Hors d’oeuvre (noun: French for appetizer – literal meaning outside the main course/work)

Really these tie in perfectly with my first post on the aperitif, as no drinks would be served without something to nibble, or they can be served as the starter once at table. While I often serve Middle Eastern appetizers let me tell you some of the French ones I have made.

Pissaladière, a Nice specialty – basically a pizza base loaded with caramelized onions and latticed with anchovies and black olives.



Cake salé – savoury cake-loaf stuffed with things like olives, ham or gruyère.

Tapenade – a savoury paste made from capers, olives, and anchovies, with olive oil and lemon juice, served on small, triangles of toast.


Intellectual (from French-intéllectuel)

It is my impression that France still has a strong respect for intellectualism, dating back, I suppose, to the French revolution. Well known intellectuals in the past such as Jean Paul Sartre and his lover, Simone de Beauvoir, filled early 20th century French radicals with their existentialist theories, anti-bourgeois and anti-capitalist philosophies, that are still felt today. Beauvoir was a radical feminist, whose text “The Second Sex”, had worldwide impact. Intellectualism is most certainly shifting and changing in France and a modern example of a French intellectual would be Esther Duflo, who lectured last year in the Collège de France (the pinnacle of French Intellectualism) as a world expert on why so many development projects in the world fail. I would also add that I am not saying that intellectualism is not esteemed in other countries, just that it has been very visible for me living here. Café-philo was founded in France and is alive and thriving. I like the fact that If I take the metro in Paris, although there will be the occasional person on a cell phone, I will see plenty reading novels and newspapers and debating. There is no wifi connection in restaurants and cafés, so there is no temptation to look at screens and thus more opportunity to chat and philosophize and put the world to rights. Also, I do find balanced reporting exists and is respected on TV, radio and in print, where intelligent discussions, not rants or attacks, are the norm.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to France G-I

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    I am really enjoying getting to know about your life and lifestyle in south France. Loved your gestures — never saw “the eye” gesutre before. Looks like it also means doubt. Your food discussions are so yummy and make me thin how boring my meals are. Are the French heavy, as there seems to be an emphasis on food customs and wine? Just wondered.

    Found your discussion about Intellectualism most interesting. I love the idea of cafes where people talk about ideas. My kind of place. You hae a much more relaxed lifestyle as I listen to you share. Can’t think about anything more stimulating than a good discussion.

    You are going to be shocked when you visit America. Electronics have completely taken over here, especially with youth, young adults. wifi connections in fast food places like McDonalds and many others. It’s reaching the point of being rude when you’re trying to carry on a convesation and cell phone goes off, or worse, the individual is texting and talking to you at the same time. Guess, I’m old school. I like contact.

    • Joanna says:

      So glad you are enjoying the series. I am getting a lot out of reflecting on life here. While obesity is increasing here, as throughout Europe, we are nowhere near the rates of the UK or US yet. So while patterns are changing, “in general” the evening meal together at the table, made from fresh ingredients and unhurried is still very important; snacking between meals is pretty rare; portions are appropriate and people walk a lot, all this helps!

      “mon oeil” is really is kind of a sarcastic ‘yeh right, like I am really going to believe you!”

      I do love their passion for a good discussion here. I was shocked recently at a party when someone next to me spent about 30 minutes playing a game on her mobile while the rest of us were all chatting – I too am pretty old-fashioned in this I guess.

  2. Diane says:

    mmm… yes well down here we tend to follow the American way I am ashamed to say, and texting and phones going off at the most inopportune time, not to mention wifi cafes popping up everywhere is common.
    In NZ obesity is on the rise also. Actually your idea of educating us with gestures, forms of greatings, and foods of France giving me the idea I should do one of NZ…something to think about for another time maybe.

    • Joanna says:

      Diane I would love to discover more about New Zealand. I know there is so much more to the islands than the All Blacks and the Lord of the Rings!

  3. I was particularly taken with your discussion of the intellectual versus the electronic. We, too, are very electronicized. (Yes, it’s a word. I just made it up.) Where I live, the only public transit is the bus system, and I confess that it’s years since I’ve taken the bus for commuting to work, so I don’t know the ratio of those who read versus those who are attached to some form of electronic device. I *do* know how many motorists I see jabbering into their mobile phones while driving.

    Loved your illustrations of the gestures! Thank you!

    • Joanna says:

      Beth, I certainly don’t believe that the new technology is anti-intellectual, far from it, but I love the way the French defend and promote knowledge and almost seek out a good “argument”, with vey few taboo subjects. I suspect the French are still a little more Cartesian than pragmatic in their way of thinking.

  4. I am enjoying this series too. Kind of prepares me for the big thing when I do visit France. I love the gestures and the gesticulations (arms waving wildly due to a misguided sense of direction as opposed to Gallic shrugs hahaha).

    But seriously, no wifi on coffee shops?!? I mean, come on. Seriously? Hahaha. How will I be able to BLOG???? =) I love the fact that the reading culture there is alive and thriving. I had the same sense while I was in Prague (not that I saw quite a number of people reading while walking the cobblestone streets) – I am basing it on the sheer volume of translated works and the amount of local literature I saw in the book shops.

    Would you be doing a book shop special in your part of France as well? 😉

    • Joanna says:

      “sigh” I know – what can the poor tourists do to blog/mail and stay reasonably connected…??. I guess they just have to lose themselves for a few hours in the unconnected world of croissants, espresso and conversation 🙂 I suppose there ARE some cyber-cafes somehere out there too!! I do so love the bookish culture here and am so glad Prague is providing that for you also (I loved your Kafka bookshop photo and I found a few Sis books in our library!).

      Mmm the French for bookshop is in fact “librairie” (library is “biblioteque”), just to confuse you, and I have already thought of/written my “l”, maybe in round two I will get around to our bookshops.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.