Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

By Mel Faxon

Syd and I were talking the other day, and she said to me,“the more I travel, and sit in cafés or go through airports or walk through parks, the more I realize we’re all just people. We’re all a little bit weird, and we’re all just people.”

It’s true. No matter where you go, you will always find people holding hands, there will always be moms pushing strollers and kids playing tag, there will always be guys hitting on girls in bars, or vice versa. There will always be people eating, old couples sitting down on a bench simply happy to be alive.

So often, I hear Americans say, “Oh my god, the French are so rude,” or “Italian men are so aggressive!” But my first thought is, “Have you been to New York?” or “Have you been to a frat party?” There will always be some cities where people are harder around the edges, where smiles don’t flow as easily as they do in places like the American South. I grew up in New England – when people smile at you on the street you run away. And yes, maybe in some terms Italian men get very excited about American girls, but I’ve never felt as accosted as by a fraternity brother after one too many rounds on the ruit table.

There’s nothing like a language barrier to help emphasize the fact that we are all just in this life together.  When you have to struggle to communicate, to act things out with your hands or even your whole body, when you are able to laugh at yourself in your foolishness and celebrate with the other person when you both finally get your point across – it’s one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment. And nothing unites different people like laughter.

The point is, the more that I interact with different cultures, and the more that I learn new differences, the more I realize that there really aren’t any.  I think that living abroad has really given me a gift in helping me realize this.  We’re all just people trying to live from one day to the next, and there’s no room for fear or ignorance.

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