Chivalry still exists in France, and it is both helpful and annoying.
Here are the reasons it is helpful:
1. I received a lot of help from men whom I didn’t know on the Paris metros and in various train stations across France with my large and heavy suitcases. Although French people are taught to never, ever, trust strangers in France (they carry the “if they want to help you they want to pickpocket you” mentality), the men who helped me carry my 50 pound suitcase up and down stairs for me at various train stations and to my apartment genuinely just wanted to help a struggling woman ().
2. I received even more help from men I DO know with my heavy suitcases. Back in Caen, my host brother Jean-Baptiste literally would not let me touch my (bright PINK) suitcase. He carried it down two flights of stairs at their home, then loaded it in and out of the trunk of their car, rolled it through the train station, carried up and down the stairs and onto the platform, and loaded it onto the train for me. Keep in mind, this was my mini, not-heavy-at-all travel suitcase- I was perfectly capable, and I even felt just a little but ridiculous. Even better, My friend Koni (with whom I stayed in Paris), literally drove across the city and met me at a train station in Paris when I left for Toulon with my fifty pound suitcase, and he put my suitcase on the train for me. He also allowed me to keep my big suitcase at his apartment for two weeks while I traveled around France so I didn’t have to haul it with me, for which I am eternally grateful.
However, the whole “chivalry mentality” has also come with some inconvenient examples. *Please keep in mind that both of these people are LOVELY, and amazing, and have helped me immensely since my move to Toulon, but I am writing these examples to demonstrate cultural differences between the US and France.*
1. As I have stated in an earlier post, my studio needed to be scrubbed; the sheets and dishes needed to be washed. After an afternoon of cleaning, I was leaving to walk back to the apartment where I was staying with the duvet cover in the bag to wash later that night. Coincidentally, I ran into the woman who looks after the studio. «Vous laissez ça ici, c’est trop lourd!» (“You can’t take that with you, it’s too heavy to carry!”) I could not leave the studio unless I left the bag there too, because it was much to heavy to carry all the way home, meaning I would have to come back yet another day to get the sheets I needed to wash. *sigh*
2. The family who is helping me get settled (they have been amazing by the way) have let me borrow a small television, a coffee machine, a rug, and a chariot for my studio, which is so much appreciated. So, after spending the night at their house and gathering said items, I learned that we were not going to be taking them back with us because they were too heavy to carry. However, the American in me just did not understand. I thought to myself, “We have all the things right here, and yet we are not taking them because there is not a male here to carry them for us?” (Perhaps this was a bit rude of me, but, for the record, I sort of just loaded all of the items into the car and the studio by myself.)
All-in-all, I am not used to having people helping me carry heavy things, unless it’s my dad on move-in day. On my university campus for example, I more often than not rode the struggle bus when hauling my sorority ritual equipment across the union. So, in France, it was sort of shocking, but frankly one that I have come to sort of welcome and appreciate. In fact, I immensely, greatly appreciate people who offer to help me carry my heavy things! At the same time, I refuse to carry the mentality that I should not and cannot carry or haul heavy things just because I am female, especially if it is at an inconvenience to “wait for help,” aka LEARNED HELPLESSNESS.
What do you think about this post? Have you experienced appreciated but maybe also unnecessary chivalry in France, at home, or somewhere else? Are these examples things you have experienced, or do you believe these are somewhat unique based on my own experiences in France? One thing I find interesting is that in both of the inconvenience examples, both were women who were telling me to leave the “heavier items” behind. What do you think?