Interview with Jamie Cat Callan – Author of “Bonjour, Happiness”

Interview with Jamie Cat Callan – Author of “Bonjour, Happiness”
“Happiness expert,” author, and speaker, Jamie Cat Callan, was inspired by her French grandmother to return to France and discover the secret to joie de vivre…at any age.  She shares those secrets in her latest book, “Bonjour Happiness.” Callan has also previously authored “French Women Don’t Sleep Alone,” is the creator of The Writers Toolbox, appeared in The New York Times Modern Love column, won numerous awards, is an absolute Francophile, and a self-proclaimed, unabashed romantic. Callan offers keynote talks, lectures and workshops on “The Secrets to Joie de Vivre: How to love yourself for who you are right now.” caught up with Callan to glean some of those secrets… What made you want to write: “Bonjour Happiness?” We live in a time when we’re all under a lot of stress.  We multi-task and we rush around from one thing to the next, accumulating more things–a bigger car or a fancy gadget.  But it seems to me these things have not brought us closer to our essential selves or brought us more joy.  I noticed that my French friends take so much delight in simple, everyday experiences.  There is less of this desire to rush and more of an appreciation for the pleasures of ordinary moments.  For Bonjour, Happiness!, I wanted to discover the source of all that joie de vivre.  This is what I learned: For the French, happiness is not a thing you can own, but an experience you can share. Your book shares French women’s secrets to whole-life happiness. What have you found to be the biggest difference in how French women view life vs. North Americans? French women tend to live in the moment.  While we have “the pursuit of happiness” here in America, for French women there is no such expression.  Rather, they have “rechercher de bonheur” which literally translates as “to look for a good hour.”  I love the idea that happiness is right in front of us–in simple, ordinary, everyday moments, we just have to open our eyes and embrace it. In your book you talk about how French people flirt differently than Americans who view flirting as teasing. How do the French approach flirting? The French don’t have a word that’s equivalent to “flirting.”  This is because to engage in clever banter, to be sweet or funny or challenging is a way of life.  It engages another person–man or woman, child or shop owner–in the delicious game of conversation. For the French, “flirtation” is simply being alive to the joys of everyday encounters, transactions and even negotiations.  A French woman will engage in what we call flirting when doing something as simple as buying a bag of apples at the market.  In this way, the shop keeper might give her an extra apple or a good price and in any case, it makes life so much more delightful. How can those “flirting” skills be used in the business environment? These conversational flirting skills can truly make any encounter more interesting and more lively.  In terms of a business environment, it gives you an opportunity to display your intellect, your charm and your sense of humor.  It’s a a great way for you to demonstrate how much joie de vivre you have and what a great team player you will make when you do conduct business together or engage in a group project.  You know, how in America a lot of “business” is conducted in the context of playing on the golf course? Well, in France, life is a golf course! What are some unique things about social interactions in France? What might surprise us? In France, there is no such expression as “time is money.”  For a French person, time is time and so you might sit in a cafe for hours and hours and the waiter will not bring your check until you ask for it. This can frustrate Americans, who like to rush from one thing to the next, but once you relax into this spirit of things, you realize this generosity of time is one of the most delicious luxuries in the world. If you’re visiting as a guest in a French home, what should you expect and what would be expected of you? I love this question, because I’ve stayed as a guest in French homes from very upscale in the 16th arrondissement in Paris to tiny Left Bank flats to farm houses in the southwest and apartments in Toulouse and many other places.  (As part of my research for my books, I love to see how real Frenchwomen live, so I prefer homes to hotels).  So, to answer your question–first I think that staying as a guest in a French home is similar to staying in an American’s home.  It’s important to pay attention to your host’s routines and expectations.  If you’re just visiting for an afternoon, don’t expect a “tour” of the house.  The French are very private and keep a distinction between the public areas of a home and the private areas.  If you are staying for just an afternoon or for a few days, it’s nice to ask how you can help.  Some French people will welcome your contributions, such as setting the table for dinner or even participating in cooking in the kitchen, while some French people might prefer you to stay in the living area and chat with other guests.  As a general rule, I’ve found that most of my French friends like cooking together and that’s a wonderful experience and opportunity for sharing and cultivating a deeper friendship.  Food is a great…

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