19 July 2016

Oh La La

Have you ever heard someone say ‘Oh la la’? Do you ever wonder what it means? What do you think it means in French?  When I first heard it from my French teacher, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but when I heard it again it made me curious, so I Googled and found this definition:

The French phrase oh là là isn't so much an expression as an interjection. It can indicate surprise, disappointment, commiseration, distress, annoyance... any moderately strong reaction to something that was just said or done. Note that there is no connotation of sexiness or impropriety in French.* http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/ohlala.htm

So what does ‘oh la la’ have to do with this blog?  Well, think about it – we have moments in our lives when we react to situations, places, people and things differently, which means that our ‘oh la la’ moments could differ, as I think it’s relative to the individual.  And that all depends on your expectations, beliefs, values and experiences.

So let me tell you about some of my ‘oh la la’ moments in Paris so far. I must say that I can’t seem to get enough of Paris, as it is admittedly beautiful.  Seeing the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees for the second time gave me another chance to admire these landmarks and at the same time, been amazed by how their greatness have been preserved. Visiting other attractions for the first time like Musee D’Orsay, Basilique de Sacre Cœur, Opera Garnier, and Versailles reminded me how much more Paris and France has to offer.  No wonder Paris has been regarded as the most visited city in 2013, with around 15M international visitors recorded that year.  Of course, I have to mention how timely and lucky I am to be here because their yearly SALE (SOLDES as they call it here) is on – ‘Oh la la la la !!’.  So just imagine how many times I visited Galleries La Fayette, Le BHV Marais and other shops already.

But life is not always pleasant.  Inevitably, frustrating moments cannot be avoided also.  Similarly, I blurted the same expression ‘Oh la la’ but with a sad face.  Like when I saw my bunk bed (with a difficult-to-climb stair), the shower room (with no place to put your stuff in while showering), and working with a French keyboard (where some characters like is in a different location as to the one I would normally use, like A is on the top left instead of the middle left, which I am accustomed to).   Also found out when attended our first meeting at work that they speak full French – that was definitely an ‘Oh la la la la la la !!’ for me.  Of course, they speak English too but it definitely would have helped if I was conversant in French.

What did these moments signify for me? I realised that your beliefs, values, attitudes, past experiences or a combination of all these factors could affect your response to specific situations and incidents.  In addition, your expectations could also impact how you deal with situations.  For instance, if you expect that you can get along with all people or all people will like you, then you are certainly mistaken.  This program has repeatedly reminded me how people are different, that each one came from different backgrounds, with certain beliefs and values, with different sets of motivations, and those could affect their actions and reactions.  Reflecting on these differences helped me better appreciate, accept, and understand others.  Embracing these differences enabled me to learn to be more mindful of other culture. And through this, I was able to cope, adjust and continue to find effective ways of being in harmony with others.

I could have reacted differently to my ‘oh la la’ moments, but they are all temporary reactions. Long term, you reflect on those moments and you deal and learn from them. That’s my way of dealing with challenging and complicated circumstances.

How about you?  What was your most interesting ‘oh la la’ moments while you were in Paris?

Sheila Baugh

Current student of The University of Sydney Business School and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Paris

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