It is no secret that I believe European living is healthier, more natural and perhaps more content than the lifestyle followed in the States. Money does not hold the same sway here as it does in America, and what you do in your free time is much more important than how you make your living. The French find extreme value in leisure, taking care of themselves, their appearance and also the pleasure of taking tastes of indulgence.
Actually, the French have a time dedicated to “tasting” everyday. This goût at about 4:15pm is taken seroiusly, too. I asked the father of a girl I tutor what they snack on during this time. I expected something like tea and coffee; rather, he said they eat cake, chocolate or sometimes fruit. “Goût” literally translates into “taste”—they just get a taste of sweetness to hold themselves over between lunch at around 12:15 pm and dinner at 7:15 pm. This father was actually abhorred that in the US, we typically eat lunch at noon, dinner at around 6, and that’s supposed to be it with maybe one little snack after.
While I admire this ability to savor one or two squares of chocolate everyday, I just can’t do it. For me, it requires self-control to stop after just a taste, while in France, it is the norm. I am always left wanting more, but they are completely satisfied with it’s lingering taste. Overall, I’d identify my personality as being somewhat all-or-nothing, but isn’t this true for many people I know? How many times have I said or heard, “It’s better if I just don’t start” or “If I start I don’t stop”?
I was raised on the belief in intensity: in school, you work for straight A’s; in volleyball, everything had to be harder and stronger than last time; and in a career, it is expected that you work long hours doing awful work until you earn the power to make someone stay in your place. America is a place where money is a product of hard work, and leisure is reserved for declared vacations, not the everyday.
Whereas I used to scorn the way Americans live their lives, it’s just another way to live, and how I have been raised—for better or worse. There is a certain amount of comfort I find hearing tales of excess from friends at home while I’m sipping an espresso and nibbling on a macaron. And while I plan on bringing home a bit of the healthy, moderate French lifestyle, I do plan on coming home. I guess even I have bought into the whole “go hard or go home” American mentality of extremes.
Now where is my venti skinny vanilla soy latte?