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Monday, July 5, 2010

La Grippe A

It has been close to a month since I have written anything, and if you happen to be an avid reader of this blog, I offer my most sincere apologies. Work has been quite chaotic lately and I haven't felt all too much like writing on the few hours that I have off. But, I've been getting an itch to put down some more thoughts and I have a little bit of time to talk about them tonight.

So...does anyone remember swine flu? I know it was a huge blown out of proportion mess back in the United States. Like the U.S., France also took many precautions to make sure that its citizens were informed about the potential dangers of the H1N1 virus, or as it was referred to in France, La Grippe A. Seemingly every commercial break this past winter mentioned ways to protect one's self against the potentially deadly strain, whether it was wash hands frequently or to go receive a vaccination. More people seemed to be getting vaccinations than the previous winter- across the street from our office was a vaccination center, and while the line was non-existent the previous winter, there were days in the 2009-2010 winter where the line stretched around the block. Nicolas Sarkozy, the president, even suggested banning the importation of pork, though once it was proved that this would solve nothing, he rescinded his suggestion.

Probably the most interesting thing that came out of this were the suggestions in many of the workplaces in France. The government put up signs in many companies and public places that said to avoid close contact with others. This included shaking hands with people, and especially kissing them.

The last suggestion was where the state seemingly crossed a line. In France, when meeting a friend, you will always exchange either a handshake or kisses with your counterpart. If you are a guy, you kiss a girl and shake hands with a guy, though with close friends and relatives guys will kiss guys. If you are a girl, you kiss everybody. If you are in a workplace setting, handshakes are usually exchanged, regardless of sex. This system is significantly simpler than the one that I know in the U.S. I'm never sure what to do as I feel odd hugging a girl every time I see her, or fumbling around trying to figure which kind of handshake/fist-pound/high five combination I am going to get when I am meeting a friend of a friend.

The bisou is nothing short of a God-given right in France, it's like the right to fresh bread or protest anytime that they feel like it. The state telling people not to kiss their friends and their colleagues was utterly laughable.

Did people listen to the advice? Of course not. People made jokes about it. After everyone made rounds to kiss everyone at work or at a party, I heard people comment "well I guess we're all going to die now." Everyone laughed, and maybe one or two of them actually got the virus. Fortunately, nobody I know died from it, so they were allowed to scoff at the fact that they had cheated death and blew kisses in his face.

The state will have to try a lot harder to keep people from greeting each other with kisses in France. Perhaps instituting a fine would be the right step, though that seems to be making matters worse with the new Burqa propostion here in France. That in itself is worthy of an entry, but I will save that for later.

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1 comment:

  1. You make a good point that in the U.S. you're so often confronted with the awkward "how do I greet this girl" scenario. Handshake, hug, high five, or nothing? We need one constant, and I'll vote for the high five.