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!”
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.
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.