'' You French, you passionate people ''
I've heard that for years now. But I always take it differently . I could answer '' Thanks'' or '' Sorry'' depending on how I judge the situation.
Then I got to thinking about passion and its different meaning in the world.
French passion = capacity to complain , organize a revolution, strike, push open doors and get what we want at any price.
I met this Taiwanese guy the other day in Federation Square , Melbourne and he had 2 questions for me :
1/ Can you teach me basic French?
2/ Why is that French people always argue about politics?
He had met 2 French guys and every time they went to the pub the two of them ended up fighting in loud French about a guy called '' Sa-ko-zi'' after a couple of beers.
'' When I go to pub I relax. Why fighting?'' he asks me.
10 minutes later he could say ''bonjour-je-m-appelle-james-ca-va'' ( I did not teach swear words for once. Am I becoming an unpassionate teacher? Hope not) . He also left with the idea that French people are just passionate. And they have a s*** president.
Yes, we are good at blaming our president. We are ‘passionate’ about it.
The other day I was watching the French news on Aussie TV (God bless SBS) and they were talking about the cold weather and the snow and I was wondering when they were going to start blaming the government for it.
2 minutes later:
'' It is very cold and we don't have the equipment for it. Our roads are frozen and no one does anything about it. Then you've got the electricity problem, who's going to pay for that? That's why people live on the street , because everything is too expensive. And on the street, it's bloody cold! '' says that random woman from the South ( they complain even more there. Yes, I'm from the North)
Time to strike again. Against the cold.
I'm in! But for now, I'm off to the beach, mate (do I love February)
That's our passion . Other people. We blame them for everything and tell them what they should do to make it better. Take our life into our own hands? Who are you kidding?
In terms of passion, we directly compete with our dear (yeah right) neighbours from Italy. Compete is a good word. We are so similar. They also put their passion in other people but they do it quite literally.
A conversation between 2 girls involving an Italian man very often ends up with the same question: ''What? He's also sleeping with YOU?''
We love other people. We just have a strange way to show it sometimes, that's all!
Reminds me of a really great Italian guy I met in Sydney. Yes, I do have Italian FRIENDS. (it does need to be mentioned)
He put his passion into his looks and making friends. Bellissimo.
Together we always played on the French /Italian cliché and argued passionately and loudly about football and food in front of strangers just to have a good laugh. The only one who could really take it, was a middle aged American tourist from Florida who married ( and divorced) an Italian guy. She found us ''slightly'' entertaining. We could have made money out of it in the streets of Sydney, for sure.
A few days later I visited him at his new house. He just moved in a couple of days earlier in Australia. It was his first time in Oz.
'' People are cold here in Australia. They don't give a s*** about you, they don't talk to you or anything. How do YOU cope Annabelle?'' he asked me slightly nervous.
That, is called culture shock, mate. And I was lucky to never have it in Australia. Why? Because I ALREADY had it in England. ( Note to Aussies : no , I am not trying to say that Australia is England with snakes, sharks, spiders, backpacker murders and skin cancer . I'm just saying that you guys share some common cultural aspects. )
Here's some examples of what I would say to my French friends in England when I still ignored the country’s culture.
2003 (about the school I worked at as teacher) : '' If I died , How long do you think it would take them to notice I 'm not there ?''
2006 AND 2008: (about Men) '' they like our passion but they can't f***** take it''
It did take me time to learn how to relate to the POMS and accept that we all have a different way of expressing our passion.
'' I love England ’’ is now my middle name. I bloody earned it (the hard way sometimes). But it was Just a small price to pay to get to know how awesome and passionate the Brits actually are. They mostly put their passion into taking the piss out of… themselves. Just thinking about them makes me smile now.
Back to Italian central in Sydney:
He introduces me to his Aussie flatmate. The guy barely looks up and says ''G'day'' then disappears (
'' See I told you. They don't give a s*** about you, here.'' he says in loud French.
So , with my Brit culture knowledge , I gave a new keyword to my new Italian friend
He stared at me: '' WHAT? No, they have NO passion here, I'm telling you. ''
He will learn... Just like I did.
Many Aussies I know had the opposite shock coming back from Italy :
'' They all yell at each other ALL THE TIME there! That's crazy, mate! '' they tell me with disbelief. ( and passion, too )
Passion... it all seems to mean different things in different countries....
And If the Aussies did not have any, they would not be here now. Something about the rage to survive in a hostile environment (yeah the snakes, sharks, spiders, backpacker murders and skin cancer story AGAIN)
The first time I noticed passion in Aussies was when I mentioned a magic word for them: ‘History’. Listen to them talking about it. They know more than you. Wanna know about European history? Ask an Aussie. And they still like it, even after having seen 275 bloody castles around Europe.
They love travelling too. The question to ask them is NOT '' Have you been to Europe'' but '' Where in Europe have you NOT been to''
They travelled to more European countries than me in just a month And that's just the ones over 70 years old.
Sport. One other passion. For me, the passion is in trying to understand what the hell is this cricket thing all about?
Wait until you speak to real life Aussie people, you will inevitably find it, the Passion. In each and every one of them.
Passion is everywhere in this country. In every single Aussie I've met since I've been here ( and before I even got here) . From my Aussie parents up in New South Wales who had 2 million jobs and built their 5 star B&B THEMSELVES ( google ''Silk Pavilions'') , their neighbour who cycled to London when he was young , my favourite aussie boy who is now 7 years old and who considered me as a family member with a weird accent after he’s known me for 2 minutes and who is now drawing maps of Australia with France nearby , to people I 've met more recently: my friend Cristina who battles against cancer with a '' who gives a s****'' '' attitude , my friend Sky who 's fighting to have a Life of her own with an extraordinary courage .
And many more ...
I also watched a documentary on TV the other day called ‘’And then the wind changed’’ shows human beings’ amazing potential to manage adversity and rise from despair after a bush fire devastated their village in February 2009. http://www.thenthewindchanged.com/story
I was absolutely stunned by all their strength and solidarity.
'' You French, you passionate people''. The person telling me this is called Sally (you thought it was a man didn't you) she’s my new manager. No , I'm not working illegally in Australia ( I'm not THAT French) I am volunteering at a Red Cross Op shop ( second hand retail shop) in Frankston, Victoria .
I was folding a ton of clothes.
'' Aussies are very generous'' she tells me as I was staring at the 4 other full boxes of donations yet to be folded.
Who said Aussies were not generous with other people.
It took the team of volunteers 2minutes and an instant coffee to make me feel like I was one of them.
'' Annabelle, you're very pretty , but look at what you’re wearing’’ , Sally tells me.
I just bought the bloody outfit to look good for work (you should have seen my style BEFORE ) D'oh.
‘’That guy you live with will never want to marry you and how the hell are you going to stay in Australia? Trust me , I'll make you look stunning ''
I did not have time to explain that marriage was not really part of the deal for me when they all started.
'' Look , you can marry my son , you'll stay here forever''
I've known them for an hour. One was willing to give me her whole wardrobe and the others wanted to give me ... their son?
I've also had messages from strangers inviting me for beer and coffee at their place to talk about Australia with me after reading my blog.
Well if it's not passion.... then what is?
It is something we ALL have. We just express it very differently.
The most awesome part of traveling is to find how different countries channel theirs.
I watched the French news again today to see that people around the country decided to share their food, shelter with others in need. They organise free Soup stands, get coffees to the the homeless , let strangers to their own Homes, to fight the cold ... together ( while still moaning against the government of course)
There is no right or wrong way to be passionate.
In the end , Passion is just the rage to live to see another day... together ( as opposed to struggle to survive alone )
So don't be afraid to use yours, '' You passionate people''