Friday, March 18, 2011

"Over The Hedge"

One thing our family has noticed about France is that people really like their privacy here. (I know you're thinking, "I thought she was going to write about that movie Over The Hedge. I'm not - sorry.)

French people in general are very private.

If you visit a French person's house, you should not expect to hang out or even help out in the kitchen. You can ask, but if you're told, "no," well, then they really mean it. I once read an article about a French man who grew up and for 25 years had never seen the inside of his grandmother's kitchen. (Usually the kitchen is a separate closed off room.) Only when the grandmother became too frail to carry dishes was he allowed entry into her kitchen.

Another example of French privacy is displayed by their houses. They have these cute little French houses or apartments with quaint little shutters on every window. At dark (around 6 or 6:30 at night) people shut out the world. The shutters are open all day, but at night people barricade themselves inside (they do keep the front door shutters open until they go to bed though - guess that's because of the late dinner hours they keep - maybe expecting a dinner guest? Who knows why. Still the rest of the house is closed up at sundown.)

Mind you, you can't really see into most people's houses anyway even with the shutters open. We're talking major hedges everywhere. They even have people they hire to keep the hedges trimmed. Some are very stunning, but they all serve the purpose of privacy.  Most people here seem to have hedges around their houses. If it's not a six foot plus tall hedge, they will have an even taller fence or wall surrounding the whole yard.

We thought this was all very odd at first. Now we kinda understand a bit more. It seems they do not want to interact with strangers much or have people see into their private lives. This kinda explains why no one will smile or say hello on the street. (People will look at us but keep a straight, almost grim face.) I've been told that the French, in general, think it is fake and impersonal to greet someone if you don't already know them. (There is of course the exception of greetings between a shop keeper and a customer.)

It's a different world if you know someone though. It's very friendly and polite. French people have beautiful smiles - you'll never see one unless you personally know them though. I am starting to like this extra privilege we get when we know someone. They will greet us with a bis (the French cheek kisses) and begin a personal conversation. Not having a daily dose of smiles and greetings on the street causes me to appreciate my acquaintances and friendships more. It's almost like I'm being allowed entry over their hedge.

I do have to say that one place we feel very welcome is at our French church here. We've found that a gathering of believers is a cherished thing, and people are very friendly and welcoming. There are fewer initial hedges for brothers and sisters in Christ. Talking about hedges so much makes me wonder about myself, "Are there any areas of my heart that I have boarded up or surrounded with a hedge. A small part that I am not willing for even God to see?" (If that were possible. Ecclesiates 12:14 says, "For God will bring every deed into judgment, including ever hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.") I need to take inventory again and make sure my favorite Guest feels welcome in my heart. I have allow Him to go "Over the Hedge" of my heart.

1 comment:

  1. I like this blog. I'm sharing it with our (your!) home group tonight at Ron and Lynn's. We will be praying for you and your family. And missing you, of course.


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