Everyday Words

The love of debate.

December 10, 2010

“The French love of debate and their belief that people should be actively engaged in ideas and issues means that they expect others not to shy away from expressing and defending their opinions. French business people expect others to disagree and argue with them.” from the book, Doing Business Internationally

I remember once in the Loire I was trying to purchase a ticket for a museum. The clerk began to argue with me that there was only 25 minutes left until closing and I couldn’t possible see anything so there was no reason to purchase a ticket, despite the fact that the museum was open and she could sell a ticket to me. We argued back and forth pretty intensely for five minutes – me saying I could see enough and that it was my money to spend and she arguing what a waste of money and experience it would be.

But then came that moment – the moment that all french arguments have – where we just stopped. She sold me my ticket and, in a sincere, pleasant way, told me to enjoy myself. And I thanked her and wished her a good night. There was no lingering affect on either us from the fierce disagreement we just had.

There has been many times I’ve sat at a dinner table with french friends and argued passionately about something – politics, philosophy, why someone wears blue or the necessity of cats. It can often get intense but just as quickly as a debate comes on, with a sip of wine, everyone is back to being friends and agreeable because the point of discussion is not always to persuade or win but just to experience and enjoy the passion of debate.

Perhaps it’s because I’m half french that I find the interesting and irrelevant – perhaps especially irrelevant – debates the best and often the most crucial to an enjoyably lived life.