I’m sure it will come as a surprise to nobody that the French know how to throw a good party! What may surprise some people is learning that I almost didn’t go. With L’américaine in the US and PB not expected to return from the US in time to attend, I was envisioning an entire night surrounded by people speaking exclusively in French. It didn’t sound fun. 😱
I decided to suck it up and go anyway and was pleasantly surprised when PB drove from Paris to attend the party after all (even though he had to turn right back around the next morning and go to Le Mans). I was sure that at least PB would speak English with me; however, it turned out that I didn’t need him for that after all!
I’d asked a little about what people wore and heard everything from jeans to “just wear what you normally do” to “a cocktail dress is good.” Since he generally doesn’t lead me astray (and kept me from naming myself after a cow), I asked PB for the final word, “What do people normally wear to this dinner?” PB looks at me frowning, like he isn’t sure what I mean. So, I clarify, “Should I wear something like I’d normally wear to work or a nice red Christmas dress I have from the US?” There was a little back and forth, but the conclusion was that PB would be wearing a nice black suit and, if it wasn’t too much trouble for me to find in my boxes, the red Christmas dress would be nice.
Yeah . . . about that. My normal work attire is West Coast business casual, but most of my co-workers dress just casual because we’re in the country. Other than PB and GO, who were in suits, everyone else was basically in jeans with a nice shirt. There were a couple of skirts with a blouse. When I walked in and realized this, I debated just returning home to change, but people had already seen me and I decided I was just going to rock the Christmas dress! Of course, when I told PB I wasn’t happy with him, he just gave the typical Gallic shrug and said the dress was nice, so he didn’t see the problem? Really?!?
Things got much better from there though. I ended up talking with one of my female co-workers, SB, and we had a very nice conversation. She also realized that my emergency contact people consisted of two men (PB and Alexis) and gave me a look of wide-eyed horror at the thought that I could have a medical issue as a woman that I would NOT want translated by them. She told me that she would be happy to help me with anything like that, so I didn’t have to take a man. I pointed out that this could include a 2 AM hospital visit one day and she assured me that she understood and it was no problem. I’m not sure if this is an indication that my coworkers like me more than I realized or French people are just MUCH more generous with their time than Americans.
Normally the dinner starts around 9 PM, but it was after 10 PM this year before we sat down and had the first course (shown above), which was a salad with foie gras (which I don’t like and sat aside). After the first course, the lights were suddenly turned off, music started and people got up and started dancing. “Wait, that’s it for dinner?” Nope – they just dance or sing between each course! Next up was the dish including shrimp, then karaoke, then a small sorbet with alcohol (to cleanse the palate) and then more karaoke. Finally, the main dish came out.
The French do not dance like Americans, at least not at a Christmas party. People moved to the music, but nobody looked like they were overtly trying to be “sexy” and when a French guy asked me to dance, we were just standing in front of each other dancing and talking – I didn’t see anyone dancing super close, even couples! It was definitely more comfortable for me than the parties you attend in the US where you’re certain some people are going to regret their behavior the next morning (for the record, the US portion of my company has a Christmas lunch only, so this would not be in reference to my company).
The French man that I danced with also offered to help me with translation issues or shopping or whatever I might need help with, which was very nice! So, I ended the night with two new people who have offered to help me in France.
In the end, I left just after 2 AM, but before dessert had been served. My appliances were showing up the next morning and I needed to get some sleep! I was told that it is common the party goes until around 3 AM – wow.