ILP 0022: My First French Kiss
In the last one week, I have improved the community job resource page and not only that, I have uploaded the first training video that gives you terrific insight on how to find work in Canada. It was the video of a workshop that I organized for job seekers in downtown Calgary. It is very revealing and was delivered by a veteran Calgary recruiter of over 20 years. You certainly don’t want to miss it. Sadly, if you are just on my email list and not a member of the community, you will not have access to it so please join us! I will be sending out a mail about this premium resource shortly.
Sometimes, our upbringing, life experiences and native culture condition us to see and approach life in specific ways. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with this. The challenge comes when this conditioning becomes a blind spot for us and we don’t notice. This week, I illustrated this by sharing the culture shock that I experienced with the traditional French kiss and how that can be traced to my blind spot. I also encouraged listeners to look beyond other people’s criticisms and judgments as they work hard to surmount the challenges they might be facing in different areas of their Canadian integration experience such as family, career or business.
My past should not be an excuse for missing my future but not learning from my past will cost me my future.
I titled today’s discussion, “My first French kiss”. Years ago, I used to work with a vendor based in France. I worked with this lady almost daily for many years. However, we never met and merely exchanged multiple emails severally every single month. We were at that point where we could both understand each other just via email. In this digital age, tone and emotions are not always that easy to read via emails but because we had worked together for many years, we had come to know when either party was not comfortable with anything – our words to each other had seemingly come alive. We had become very good friends and not just business partners. Again, we had never met.
Then came the opportunity for us to meet. She was coming down to our office from France along with the director in charge of my region. A colleague of mine and I were excited to finally meet this very helpful partner of ours. Then came the day. I greeted her director – I knew him very well because we had met many times. Then he introduced me to the lady and she was like, “Are you Dapo?” I said “Yes” and almost in a flash, she leaned forward, held me and gave me the traditional French kiss called “Faire la bise” which in English means “Give a kiss (on the cheek). Trust the smart dude that I am, I reciprocated the act quickly and simply mirrored exactly what she did, had a very friendly chat and spent some time with herself and the regional director. I am happy I did not bash heads or wonder too close to the danger zone of the mouth. Lol. That would have felt very awkward. If you are listening to me and have never experienced this, here is how it is done – you do not actually kiss the other person’s cheek but simply use your cheek to touch the other person’s cheeks lightly and kiss the air. And all these is usually done very fast and repeated a few times. I think mine was repeated twice. Oh! And I forgot to say that my colleague received a handshake 😉.
It was as if nothing happened but for me, a lot happened. I was shocked. That was fast and totally unexpected. For those of you who are more exposed than me, you would certainly laugh about this and it’s understandable. My colleague and I laughed about it too and when I got home, I recounted the event to my wife and she laughed at me even more. She also used the opportunity to explain why it is good to be exposed and at least see more foreign movies. Okay, fair enough. But let me tell you a little bit about myself.
I grew up in a family where except I have forgotten, I have never seen my dad or mum say “I love you” to each other. Maybe my mum said it in my mother tongue, but I don’t remember that happening even once. My parents don’t hold hands, don’t hug and certainly never kissed each other. Well, that might be stretching the truth, but they did not do that in my presence. In fact, it was in my teenage years that I started to suspect that my parents might be making love to each other. And by the time I grew older and understood life a lot better, I had confirmation that they did! Otherwise, where did myself, my brother and sisters all come from?
Do you now understand where I am coming from? In our family, love is an action word. It is what you do or don’t do to the other person. It is what you say or don’t say to the other person and I mean kind or unkind words. When my parents literally broke their backs to ensure we had a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear or good Schools to attend, that was love – and it did not require an explanation. When my parents did not have money to spend on themselves or food to eat but spent money on us and gave us food to eat, that was love – and we knew it. We felt it in our hearts and on our skins. There was no doubt that we lived with loving parents. That was how I learned to receive, recognize and express love. Hugs were things you gave when you had last seen someone for upwards of six months and you naturally don’t think about it – you just want to wrap your arms around the person for a few seconds and after that, you return to status quo. I remember that the only way I told my parents that I love them aside from being of good character, getting good results in School, doing my chores and being hardworking was by sneaking those “I love you” words into my letters to them. Yes, in my family we are all very good writers and wrote snail mails a lot back in the days. Those were the only places where I used those expressions openly and I always meant every word. Does this give you a better insight into why my first French kiss was a little unnerving?
Of course, I have since changed and become more verbal and expressive in my show of love. I am not there yet but I continue to change. A lot of those things are now natural with me although my wife might still contest my claim especially if she uses her own upbringing as a benchmark for scoring me. Lol.
Why did I go down memory lane in this episode? In the last one week, I had a good time reflecting on me – who I was, who I am, who I might end up becoming if I continue living my life the way that I currently do and who I can become. It was a critical lens that I needed to put on because for a while, I had been struggling with getting the result that I was expecting in a certain area of my life. And to say the least, it was an unhappy reality that I needed to deal with. I don’t know about you but sometimes, I find myself focused on others in the bid to getting the results that I seek. I don’t do this all the time, but I do it all the same. It was because nothing seemed to be moving that I went into that reflective mode to realize the role that I was playing which was yielding the unexpected results that I was experiencing. I was able to see how my life experiences had conditioned me to see things a certain way. I had my eyes opened to see how culture was part of my challenge and how I continue to experience culture shock because I was not intentional in my growth regarding certain aspects of my life and business.
I have had a few people criticize and even judge me regarding certain challenges that I face without knowing where I am coming from. I guess my past should not be an excuse for missing my future but not learning from my past will cost me my future. This was how my week went and today, I am a better person and already making changes that are within my own control and now things are moving in the direction that I want. Isn’t it amazing that when we focus on ourselves to make the changes that we need to see in others, we achieve better, more enduring and even faster results?
If you are listening to me and have struggles in your life, career or business and you have been criticized by others. Don’t worry, Theodore Roosevelt – the late American statesman and writer who served as the 26th President of the United States has some encouragement for you. He said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
With these wise words, I leave you to face your week confidently and wish you a better version of yourself. I certainly won’t close without asking you to join the Immigrant Life Community!
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PS: When you join this movement, together we’ll uncover the lessons learned, tips, strategies and actionable insights that will help us thrive in Canada and make a difference in our various spheres of influence.