“Fou-rire” …aka “giggle fit”


This must be the word of the week. I’ve had giggle fits off and on for various reasons since I arrived in my host-family’s house. Why?

I’m a naturally giggly person. Its how I vent anger, frustration, anxiety, stress, happiness, enthusiasm…basically any emotion I feel gets expresses in a smile or a laugh. Which isn’t as fun as it sounds….

For example, when I’m walking down the road “être dans la lune” (interpretation: head in the clouds… translation: to be on the moon) and I think a funny thought…I have two options I could a) stand there and laugh like a crazy person, because no one has spoken a word to me and here I am laughing or b) bite my cheek and try not to laugh out loud at the funniness in my head. Fyi- this happens every time I walk. Walking is boring and thinking keeps me company.

Or, to bring back here to France…DON’T SMILE AT STRANGERS!! 🙂 (haha… <- get it? probably not…that’s okay) Why don’t you smile at strangers? Well, here in France, not looking at- i.e. not smiling at- strangers is their form of Civil Inattention. For those who don’t know what civil inattention is: it’s a cultural expectation to be ignored and to ignore others in return. In America, smiling is also a form of engaged civil inattention (I made that one up, obviously inattention inherently implies that there will be no engaging)…However! By smiling we Americans are telling the other person, who caught us look at them, that we mean them no harm and expect them not to harm us in return. It relieves the tension in that awkward “Why are you staring at me?” look. In France, if someone catches you staring at them, you simply pretend that they are nothing more than a picturesque addition in the scene that you are actually interested in. There is no need to appease a potentially awkward, because it simply is not there…although, as an American, I can tell you it’s always there! if only in my/your head. There’s also this fun fact: smiling is very flirtatious here in France. Instead of appeasing the awkwardness of breaking civil inattention by getting caught while staring at someone, it encourages civil inattention to be put by the wayside and for two people (or more..I mean, I don’t know how the French exactly use this method of flirtation. I’m sure some “stupid American” has wound up in a ménage-a-trois by misusing this smiling method. *see end note 🙂 ) to become engaged. It essentially tells the other person “We should talk and go out to dinner.” Therefore, smiling needs to be checked. You may wind up in a sticky situation. Or, you could use it to your advantage. I suggest you don’t do this on the street, when you’re alone and with a total stranger…just a suggestion.

So, what does this have to do with “giggle fits”? Not much really, except my host mother is more than patient with me every time I have one. Like just now when I thought I heard her say one thing so I responded to that question, but then 30 seconds later realized I didn’t understand a word she had told me. So what do I do: I start giggling so hard I can’t breathe, let alone talk in French and explain to her that I didn’t know what she just asked of me. The scene went like this: I’m giggling, like a crazy person, clutching my purple sparkly laundry bag (…that I totally stole from my stepsister, sorry Zoe, I promise I’ll bring it back. I found it in the laundry room at home and thought it was up for grabs.) trying to use my hands to explain that I didn’t understand a word, but I end waving my dirty clothes around and hitting myself making me laugh even harder…I don’t know how she didn’t burst out laughing too. But, she stood there patiently until I managed to keep from laughing long enough to talk. Then, once in the safety of the being right in front of the laundry room…I start laughing again. Which wasn’t so bad, except that I couldn’t find the little ball you put to soap into. Eventually, though my laundry was successfully started and I’ve managed not to start giggling uncontrollably while writing this…. chances are that it’ll happen at dinner. Once you start, its impossible to stop.

Also I guess a good note to end on is the very common saying in English: Just keep on smiling!    …which is funny because I just wrote this whole post on why smiling probably shouldn’t be done…. 🙂

*note: So, ever since I started this blog I’ve wanted to find a way to tastefully write ménage-a-trois. Why? … I’m in college. …don’t judge me… 🙂 lol This is also why ménage-a-trois is a tag for this post.


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