In much of the anglophone world, we get excited a lot. In fact, “being excited” is the automatic response to a lot of things in everyday life.
Any anglophone learning French has probably made the mistake of saying, « Je suis excité•e », only to find out that it doesn’t mean the same thing. At all.
Any anglophone learning French has probably tried really hard to find a way to translate “I’m excited” into French, but in vain. This automatic reaction, this reflex, that’s so normal to English speakers has no direct French translation.
However, I should add that the Québecois, as North Americans, have the concept of excitement, and consequently, have developed their own expressions for it.
But for the rest of us, we have to use expressions like « Je suis (trop) content•e » or « J’ai (trop) hâte » even though it doesn’t feel like a true translation, and doesn’t capture the essence of the excitement that we actually feel.
I’m not an expert, but I know that in France for example, being too excited in public is seen as classless. Speaking too loudly on public transit is frowned upon. However, in North America, there can be loud and excited people everywhere. It can be difficult sometimes for me to read on the bus or the subway!
Before the French Revolution, the French court was seen as extremely superficial. France moved toward a new era that valued authenticity, and this had long lasting effects. Being too excited can be seen as superficial behaviour, for who in the world could be that happy about something?
Personally, I’m in the middle. As a native English speaker who was culturally raised North American, I have the automatic reflex of being excited about things, and I can sound very excited when I speak about everyday life.
However, I’m also a very zen person, and I feel my most intense feelings on the inside. My internal feelings often don’t translate to my exterior. This leads a lot of people to think that I’m too serious, or intimidating until they talk to me and realize that I’m actually super chill. (Can you relate?)
I also don’t like to fake anything. I hate bullshit, so even if my culture has socialized me to play a part on the exterior, I don’t see the need. If I don’t really think that the gift you bought me was transcendent, I will be thankful, but I won’t act super excited about it.
All of this to say that there is no shame in showing a little more enthusiasm in your interactions with English speakers, especially in North America. It’s culturally okay to be excited about life!
Even in business settings, showing some enthusiasm and a mild sense of humour can help put people at ease and make people remember you. Nobody is asking you to be crazy, just a few pleasantries here and there to show that you’re human.
Without this excitement, people might think that you’re too serious, or that you don’t like them! They might even be afraid of you. Maybe that’s partly where the stereotype that French people are rude comes from. It’s a huge cultural misunderstanding.
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