I feel like I’ve talked about my international background a million times but being born in Paris, raised in Montreal, studying in Tel Aviv and now living in New York City opened my mind and my eyes like never before – especially about mannerism and conducts in a society.
I was too little to realize the Parisian mannerism: always having a proper look on the outside but raging fire on the inside. It is only as a young adult that this insight came to my mind as I was sitting at bistros and cafés. In Paris, people are real. I feel like it really has to do with the person’s mood and how their day is going by. If a waiter is having a good day, you will immediately hear it in her or his voice; the same while going through a bad day. I have also realized that when I speak French to a waiter in Paris, they are not as polite as when I speak in English. Do French waiters pretend to be more polite with tourists? This is a question my family and I have been asking ourselves for the last 15 years, ever since we left Paris and moved to Montreal.
The first thing my parents thought when we moved is how nice Canadians are. For any questions, inquiries, advice, the Canadians always seemed polite, wanting to help, rather than just doing another nice thing during the day. At school, the teachers praise students. The doctor’s office? The paediatric makes sure to comfort the child. Gym? Personal trainers will pamper you and make you feel like a king.
I began to wonder why Canadians were all SO nice and I did some research. Apparently, Canada is a country with a few stress points therefore people can afford to be polite. Affording to be polite. I always thought affording was a verb used relating to finances and money but apparently it could be used for mannerism too? In Paris, how can someone afford a coffee, but not a smile? This is one of the reasons my parents left France and they couldn’t be happier moving to a warmer country, in terms of warm welcoming, definitely not warmer weather. Just when I’d seen it all, I moved to Tel Aviv.
In Tel Aviv
Before I get into politeness and mannerism details in Israel, it is important to know what Israel is known for, and that it’s “chutzpah” or in other words, shameless audacity. In Israel, people admire the fact that they are not afraid to embarrassed to do or say things that will shock, surprise or annoy other people (Collins Dictionary). Israelis will tell you what they think, with a humor and charisma to their sentences that cannot make anybody upset, because people knowthis is the way they are. During my three years in Tel Aviv, I was screamed at, yelled at, told off, pushed on the street, insulted in Hebrew, but all in all, I know no one means bad when these things were done.
Unlike Paris or New York City, there is a chutzpah existing in Israel that makes you one of them too. I believe I didn’t care about the politeness of people there, because I myself became part of that social conduct! When I went back to Montreal for a few weeks to visit my family, I realized it. I went to the bakery to get bread and I skipped the entire line there was in front of me and put the bread down on the counter ready to pay for it. As weird as this sounds, I didn’t even notice a line of people. In Israel, you pick out your bread and hope to be the first one to pay for it… and you will do whatever it takes to get there.
After I paid for the bread in Montreal, I turned to the exit of the store only to see a line of people staring down at me. Of course, no one said anything, they’re Canadians. I was so embarrassed. Have I brought new mannerism from Israel back home? I told everybody how sorry I am and felt guilty about it the rest of the day. It was so interesting to see the new things I picked up from living in Tel Aviv. I had less patience over the phone, I was ready to fight for things that weren’t going my way, I was polite but put my foot down when I needed something, I forgot to say sorry, not because I wasn’t polite anymore, but because you just don’t say sorry in Israel. I could write about my mannerism experience in Israel for hours, but let’s move forward a little bit.
In New York City
Last week, I was rushing to catch the bus in New York City, when I saw it about to hit the pedal. I ran but the doors were closed already. I knocked on the bus doors and the driver opened it for me. This would never happen in Israel I thought. And it never did. The amount of times I stood in front of the bus, a second after the doors closed, and the driver wouldn’t open them, even if he was at a red light. New York City is very much about individualism, I think. People are polite and real while minding their own business; which is why I love this city so much.
A Mix of it All
Over the years, I’ve become a mix of Parisian attitude, Montreal kindness, Tel Aviv chutzpah, and New York City individual. This is all my international background. I think all of these countries shaped who I am as I’m writing this. Paris taught me how to be real, Montreal taught me the act of being nice, Tel Aviv taught be how to be stronger mentally and New York City taught me the do my own thing without minding others. As my father always told me, “nothing will make you richer than traveling around the world”. In the case of politeness and mannerism, he was right.