I’d Be Having Even More Fun in France…

… If I just weren’t so damn tired.

No idea why. Lord knows I’m getting tons of sleep. And I’m pretty sure it’s not jet lag. I suspect that fundamentally not being able to understand all the very nice people around you may ultimately be fatiguing.

So: Still having fun. But I might pack it in early tonight.

Also, still wrapping my brain around the fact it’s several hours earlier where most everyone I know is. It messes with my head to call my wife at noon her time and five my time. Usually when I have a time change it’s being three hours behind because I’m on the West coast. This all takes getting used to.

26 Comments on “I’d Be Having Even More Fun in France…”

  1. John, that may be an experience like being hearing impaired, where you struggle all. day. long. to communicate with everyone. Your brain is always working overtime to piece together meaning from small snippits of information. No one ever quite gets this when I say this, but it is absolutely exhausting. I think you’ve figured it out. So, small doses with rest periods are the way to go. And as it doesn’t seem like you have–don’t get hung up on it, just roll with it and pick up what you can, smile and nod when you can’t.

    Hope you have fun the rest of the trip!

  2. The language differences can get a little overwhelming. Plus, my guess is you’re probably putting in a lot of effort trying to feel comfortable in a foreign culture without reinforcing any cultural stereotypes the French may have toward Americans. Plus, it can get a little unnerving when everyone around you is speaking a different language. And, for a cat who makes a living off the English language, in your position, it’s probably a little intimidating.

    My advice: Go shopping. It really does help to just look at things without stretching your brain trying to figure out what everything means.

    Just don’t buy a beret… Don’t. Ever. Buy. One.

  3. To echo Lisa and Dan, you’re likely overstimulated by the newness and different-ness surrounding you – like a toddler at a holiday party with too much noise, bright shiny things, and strangers.

    As long as you don’t throw any tantrums or hide under the table until everybody leaves, you’ll be fine.

    Take care of yourself and take breaks when you need to. And I would love to see pictures of you in beret – honest, I’d just keep them for my private collection, and certainly wouldn’t plater them all over the internets or anything. And maybe one of those little neckerchief things . . .

  4. I’m with Lisa and Dan on this one. When you know the language, your brain knows what it can discard, but in this case, it’s working overtime trying to make sense of everything it hears.

  5. Reminds me of my perpetual body language problems. I have body language … it’s just completely incomprehensible to a lot of people, so there’s always a disconnect that makes me have to work a little harder to make myself understood by using body language that is foreign to me. I get tired from social situations very quickly as a result. Talking to people through a language barrier, by comparison, is less work for me, because the other person is actually focused on the mechanics of talking instead, and is trying to meet me beyond the gap as well as me trying to meet them.

  6. I’ll concur with Lisa, being hearing impaired myself from childhood onset of Meniere’s Disease. I’m frequently exausted after a day of listening to a lot of people or noise. It’s hard to explain, but hearing impaired people have to concentrate harder to interprate noise into useful language. Some days, everything sounds like “Blah, Blah, Blah.” Then again, somedays that’s all it is too. :)

  7. I think its the metric time that has you messed up. Like how 35 French hours = 40 US hours = 1 work week. The days really are longer.

  8. Whatever, man. Try being an expatriate Australian in Texas, finding yourself living in a completely different day than your dad and mum.

    Heh. It devastated me then, but now I can point my finger and laugh at the likes of you. snigger, smirk.

    This is all in good fun, BTW, mostly because I’m jealous that you’re in France and I haven’t had the pleasure yet, though I’m wishing I had.

  9. Well, I hope you are not too tired to do a bit of sightseeing in Nantes. It’s a beautiful city with a nice downtown area and fortress. The Jules Verne House/Museum is quite interesting as well.
    If your longing for the English language gets too strong, you can always visit one of the Irish pubs :) – I liked the John Mac Byrne on the Rue des Petites Ecuries, but there are lots more which are frequented by Irish and English expats.

  10. Yeah, language does that to you. I spent a year as an Erasmus student in France and ended up exhausted every single day even though I only worked/went to class for about 5h. Everything costs more effort in a different language and being in a different cultural setting also puts you in a permanent state of tension. The feeling of your culture/country being judged by your behaviour isn’t a nice one and that too can get tiring after a while.

    Also, there are subtle cultural differences that go mostly unnoticed but which prevent you from fully relaxing. Things like body space and how close people stand when they’re talking to you. Things like voice pitch and volume. All those cues are subtly telling your brain that you are out of a familiar setting.

    Take it easy and relax. Think of it as an experiment on being a cultural minority. :)

  11. I found the same thing when I was in Tokyo earlier this year. I don’t even have a small amount of Japanese in my language repertoire (well, I do now, but I didn’t when I was assigned there), and being in a place where nothing is comprehensible is so tiring!

    Take care, watch some English-language stuff online when you can and enjoy the trip!

  12. Are you eating well enough? I seem to remember your average daily intake on the last book tour was something like a mini bag of Fritos and three Coke Zeros.

  13. At least you go west to come home. I went to San Fran twice this year. Falling back four hours? Easy, though I worked until midnight the first Friday I was there. OTOH, I pretty much could sleep and get up whenever I wanted, like I had two clocks running in my head, and my body didn’t care if I switched back and fourth. Imagine “sleeping in” until 4:30.

    And then I got back to Ohio. And my brain screamed, “NO! We want to stay on Pacific time! We can’t give back those four hours! We already used them!”

    So you’re getting that on the front end of the trip. Going home will be easy.

    Assuming you don’t have to layover in Heathrow, which makes Atlanta look like Dayton.

  14. Sara @ 13: You write about something which is conspicuously absent from all written & filmed SFnal alien environments (except in a comic way in some of the Men in Black films: one never gets a real sense of the physical alienness and the effort required to operate in an extreme heterogeneous environment. I’ve been in something like 24 countries this year, and just the simple language and currency differences are tiring enough, without all those myriad shades of body space and voice tone/volume issues to deal with. I’m sure someone could write a treatise on the “flocking” behaviour of different cultures just based on watching groups in public spaces like Trafalgar Square or the main foyer of the Louvre.

    My perception in recent years is that a lot of the SF fan crowd have more trouble dealing with these intra-human differences than the fantastic, yet somewhat idealised-to-vanilla interactions between alien species. And don’t get me started on why people surrounded by statuettes of the Alien, Predator, various Wookies and Daleks are so afraid of the domestic dog…

  15. Mike–
    Yeah, I’ve given some thought to what you’re saying. I believe these issues aren’t being explored in SF because SF writers in general aren’t regularly exposed to interactions outside their given cultures. I’m not talking about travelling only. Any recent inmigrant knows and understands these differences but SF writers in general come from a different demographic and don’t address these issues.

  16. Hellspark by Janet Kagan goes into a lot of detail about the myriad differences in body language among different cultures. Her setting has people who are professional “translators” of these differences, and the main character is one such translator. It’s a neat book if you read it for the setting. :)

  17. I just hope you’re genuinely fatigued and not incubating the stomach bug that two of my friends at the Utopiales both had… Will keep my fingers crossed for you, because it wasn’t pretty for them and it’d probably be hell on someone who’s soon gonna be air bound again.

    I meant to thank you again for agreeing to spend some time with this forward French woman you didn’t know from Adam! It was really great meeting you. I planned to say goodbye at your signing today, and introduce my friend Fleur who loved your books (Ghost Brigades even more than OMW, she said) and meant to gratefully shake your hand. But I was too slow browsing the books and by the time I was done piling a new load up, you’d vanished. Another time! I also missed my chance to get my copy of The Last Witchfinder signed… Time is always too short, anyway.

    (I spent way too much money on books this weekend. I shake my fist at y’all writers.)

    Here’s to wishing you a pleasant trip back home.. And hoping you’ll get some time to visit the next trip over!

  18. “The feeling of your culture/country being judged by your behaviour isn’t a nice one and that too can get tiring after a while.”

    That feeling gets a lot stronger when you are a racial minority in that country. I spent 2 years in Japan, and after a month of thinking that I was some sort of ambassador, I decided to give it a miss.

    But I did speak Japanese decently. That made a whole world of difference. I’d see some young girl behind the counter at Yodobashi Camera get this look of panic thinking she’d actually have to form a coherent English sentence with me instead of reciting memorized word lists for her teachers. Then I’d say “Sumimasen, kedo…” and her face would melt in relief.

    But lesser-travelled people often really would assume that you were a linguistic moron, or at least they bought in to the myth of the impenetrability of Japanese to foreigners. This was especially evident if you read kanji, many people would act as if you were a dog who had just learned to read.

  19. Heh. I guess now I know what I probably look like whenever someone Hispanic comes into the Chinese takeout where I work. I’m desperately in need of learning at least enough Spanish to talk about our menu…

  20. God, how wrong everyone is. It’s so clear. He’s in FRANCE. It’s oxygen deprivation. The atmosphere is 50% cigarette smoke over there. Scalzi clearly didn’t prepare for this. He should’ve started smoking at least a month before the trip. His wife then could’ve met him at the airport and slapped a nicotine patch on him.

  21. You are So Right.

    (I moved to Taipei a week ago, from the Netherlands. At least when people spoke Dutch (which they mostly didn’t, to me) I could make a reasonable guess at it even before I learned any. The similarity to English made words far easier to remember, too.)

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