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RJ Dupre Column: Dealing with the French

I come from a culture and country where patience is an unknown quality. The French temperament is very arrogant at times, and we are a pretty feisty bunch. I remember as a child when my Mom and I used to go to the open market everyday to purchase our food. We had to wait in line to get served, simple enough. But for my mother, that waiting business was never in the plan. She was only 4' 11", but watch out! She would wait for a few seconds, then the grumbling would start. The offended look was sent to others, and suddenly, within minutes, she wiggled her way into the crowd, past everybody and gave her order to the merchant. Of course, some people were complaining about this aggressive take over, and she would look at them totally baffled by their reaction.

This kind of attitude is a common trait among my fellow countrymen. They steal your parking space, park on sidewalks, two lanes deep, break any rules in the book, and act surprised, if not aggressive, when you confront them. My father used to say that to be the leader of our country took a lot of character and determination.

I was like them when I arrived in the U.S. What really surprised me here in North America was how disciplined people were. In stores people wait patiently in line for their turn, even if somebody is holding everybody back. I have never heard anybody insult anyone or complain about the delays. Back home we run like crazy all the time. In cities, it is a common occurrence to see people eating their sandwich while rushing on the boulevards or running to catch the Metro. In restaurants, it's rush, rush all the time. I suppose it is probably like that in metropolitan areas here, too.

When it comes to opinions, we French have plenty of those, and we get quite verbal about them. If the populace is not happy or disagrees with our nation leadership, we spill out in the street and let it be known what we think. Peace marches have been suggested through the years but have not always been successful.

After years of living in the U.S., my French temperament has calmed down somewhat. I realized the change when I would go back home. I would land in Paris and go to the airport counter to ask direction. The personnel at hand would ignore me first, then on their own time would acknowledge my presence, then would literally bark at me. I did not take it personally. Instead, I would say to myself, "RJ, you're home again."

I sometimes miss the spunky and passionate attitude of my culture, but on the other hand I realize that you more often than not, get what you want through patience and considerate actions.