No Sugar Coating


I Guess There's No Such Thing as Politically Correct

In the US, when delivering bad news or criticizing something, we try to be as delicate as possible. We try a compliment sandwich or to give good news with the bad news. But that is starting to seem a little rare here in France. They have no problem telling you exactly how they see it. Feelings are not things that are spared here.

My most recent experience was when I was getting my metro card. Since I will have it for the year they needed me to take a picture. The guy kept trying to take the picture but it just wasn't working. So what would we say in the US? "Maybe we should move because I am having a hard time capturing the picture with the lighting," or something to that effect. But not in France. Instead the guy tells me that he's having problems because where I was standing made me look ugly. Oh no he didn't! This guy just told me that I look ugly! Well what he was trying so say was the I came out ugly in the picture, not much better but at least he wasn't physically calling me ugly. Eventually it came out and he said it was the best he could do. So what, I only look half ugly now? (Well the man isn't lying because that is my worst ID picture that I've ever taken!)

I've heard stories of doctors walking in, looking at exam results, and saying "there's nothing wrong with this kid" and walking out. Cool way to deliver the good news. If you say something wrong, don't be surprised that they correct you then and there. In the US we would pretend nothing happened or wait until they are finished. But not many people will just interrupt you and tell you that you're wrong.

But is this always bad? Is the no sugar coating really something that offensive? All people have good intentions. They want your picture to turn out good, they want you to speak well, and they want your kid to be healthy. A lot of French people don't mind telling you that they are displeased which means you don't have to worry about them talking behind your back later. So if you can get over the initial shock of "did they really just say that" you might be ok, even if they did just call you ugly. But as an American, I still get shocked a first.

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