During a time when so much of the news cycle is about awful things, I’d like to write about my observations of small acts of kindness while I’ve been in France. I know these take place everywhere, but being in an unfamiliar place has given me the opportunity to be aware of interactions I often take for granted during daily life.
Contrary to the stereotype of the French as rude, I have encountered nothing but kindness. There are specific thoughtful acts: Our landlady met us at the airport and took us to the grocery store before bringing us to the apartment. One afternoon outside the Musee des Beaux-Arts, a woman saw us looking at a map and offered her help. In broken English, she gave us directions to the street we needed, and then — blocks later — surprised us from behind by grabbing our elbows and redirecting us when we took a wrong turn. Paule, a woman Jen met in cooking class, who invited us for a tour of her home village of Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or and treated us to ice cream in her backyard.
There is also a general attitude. Servers are generally jovial as well as patient with my bad French. Every day on the bus or tram, I see people of all ages, colors, garb, or gender offering their seat to someone older or encumbered. Proprietors sing out “Bonjour!” when you enter a store, and people kiss each other’s cheeks upon meeting and parting.