Lessons Learned in France

Over my 6 months living in Montpellier and now beginning a 9 month stay in Saint Etienne, I have learned a lot about various aspects of French life!

  • The smoking stereotype has proven to be really somewhat accurate. 
  • French men know how to dress, without exception.
  • Bars are really laid back, it's not a dressy occasion like in the US. Instead, it seems like the nightclubs or the "Discotheques" are the places to get really dressed up for! 
  • The French know how to party. I definitely cannot keep up! People begin their nights at apartments or bars, and don't leave the "pre-game" to go to nightclubs until nearly 1am. It's not unusual to stay out until 5am here, and I have doubts that I will ever be able to do this. I think I prefer the American way-- start early, finish early! 
  • What is "Joutes"? French jousting with a twist-- it's on a boat! According to my Civi du Sud teacher, it is a summer time sport and competition in cities around France, like Sete. Tons of people come to watch, and sometimes they even have winter versions of this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDQMxNcJ4Yc&feature=related 
  • Apparently French theaters don't have intermission-- at least not the play I went to. Nearly 2 hours and a half hours in the same seat! Instead of having an intermission to change the set and their clothes, they just dimmed the lights and had the characters sing as they changed and cleaned up the stage.
  • This may sound silly, but until today I did not realize that children and adults give the same greeting kisses to each other. For some reason I thought this greeting was reserved for adults and that children were exempt. Good to know now!
  • I live in an old mining and factory town. While the many of the factories and mines are no longer in operation, most of these towns have an incredibly large smokestack somewhere near town. I was told the other day that these smokestacks are considered historic sites and it is illegal to tear them down.
  • French Fries taste better here. Not because they're French, but because they remind us of home. It's a total stereotype, but Americans love them. Also, they often come with ketchup and mayo in the same little dish (not sure how I feel about that yet).
  • Muffins come with a gooey center filling.
  • People go to the grocery store at least once a week, if not more. Everyone wants the freshest of ingredients and no one is bothered by standing in 20 minute lines at the grocery store on a regular basis.
  • Steak Hache a Cheval does not mean it's horse meat-- only that the burger/steak has an egg on top of it, like riding horseback. Since horse meat is eaten here, that's definitely good to know!
  • A lot of people who handle food (like in a bakery) don't typically wear any sort of gloves.  Doesn't really bother me, I guess they wash their hands a lot because I once saw a guy come in to the little restaurant down the street and shake the cook's wrist instead of his hand when he said hello.
  • Bull meat isn't that different from regular cow meat, though I was told it had a stronger taste.
  • In the States, wine that comes in bags/boxes tend to be cheaper and not as high quality. Well, in France the bags/boxes do not indicate anything about quality-- only that the companies and vineyards producing them decided it would be more cost effective to do so.
  • KFC, Subway, Dominos, Pizza Hut, and of course McDonalds, have all found their way to France.
  • Pizza servings are different in France. Here, they only offer personal pizza sizes-- none of that large or extra large here. I explained that in the states, we all order one pizza and share sliced pieces from it.
  • Guillaume told me that he loved the chocolate I brought because it was unique in France. He said they have mint, and they have chocolate, but you never find it together.
  • I FINALLY found skim milk here-- most milk is demi-ecremé but that was too much like 2% or whole milk for me. Guillaume and I searched in three different stores and found ecremé, the equivalent of skim. I was worried about the taste, though, because the milk here is so highly pasteurized, it doesn't need to be refridgerated until it is opened. Luckily, the taste is not affected and I can continue to being a milk lover while abroad!
  • I am not a big cheese person, but I found one I like-- Cantal! It's not very strong, pretty similar to cheddar actually. My family ends their dinner with cheese every single night. Just cheese. No crackers. I have to have crackers or bread with mine, but maybe by the end I won't!
  • American music is MUCH more popular than French music here: Katy Perry, Beyonce, Shakira, Usher, and Taio Cruz to name a few.
  • Netflix is not now available in France. This was a HUGE disappointment, it would have been handy to have when I needed a break from hearing French! The French version of Netflix arrived in Oct 2014, but all the shows stream in French-- even the American shows.
  • French DVDs will not work with my Dell. Only Sonys and Macs can play international DVDs
  • You don't need to know every word said in a movie in order to understand the story. We went to see "Intouchables" tonight, a very popular French film, and even though I can understand people in conversation, movies are always difficult. But by piecing together what we could, Jade and I were both laughing along with everyone else from basic comprehension. By the end of it, we were both in tears. Great movie, see it if you can!
  •  French Cinemas are SO much nicer... with big comfy seats, and a huge high quality screen. AND you can bring in your own food!
  • I went to a bowling alley here the other day, but it wasn't just a bowling alley. It also had karaoke, an arcade, a bar, pool tables, AND go carts within the same building. The French use the same words, like strike and spare... and the balls are color coded by weight! 
  • I always knew that in French "bibliotheque" means library, I never knew that "librairie" means bookstore. Just another faux-ami!
  • Movies are sometimes released earlier in France/Europe, like the Hunger Games which was released a day or two before the US.
  • Le Prenom, a French film I recently saw in theaters, was a fantastic movie. The French know how to keep things simple, but incredibly funny in their storylines and there always seems to be a bit of dark humor mixed in.
  • There are barely any commercials for French television. AND many of the shows are French twists of American shows-- Super Nanny, American Idol, etc.
  • In order to exit buildings on campus, you have to press a very small, and discrete button. No, I was not told that before, and I spent a good 5-10 minutes trying to push on the door and find another exit. I was convinced I somehow managed to lock myself IN a building. I blame it on the 1 hour of sleep.
  • I have yet to find a water fountain to drink from. When I asked my teacher if there were any, she suggested I try using the sink.
  • The bathrooms on campus are missing toilet seats. I haven't been able to find out why just yet, but it is a strange thing to be lacking.
  • When teachers cancel class they actually reschedule! This process can be pretty confusing because they often want the ENTIRE class to come, even if that means having class at 7pm.
  • At the end of two of my finals my teacher brought in wine, cheese, and other treats to celebrate with the second we put our pens down. We should start this tradition in the States!

  • The French receive, at MINIMUM 5 weeks of paid vacation a year, NOT including national holidays!
  •  Kids raise their pointer fingers, not their hands, to respond in class.
  • Eleves are students in primary school, etudiants are considered older, like in Lycee
  • We get 8 weeks of vacation between the start of school and the beginning summer: 2 weeks in October, 2 weeks December/January, 2 weeks February, and 2 weeks in April.
  • They have two hour lunches and two twenty minute recesses a day.
  • Elementary schools only have a half day on Wednesdays.

  • Coats from H&M cost 50 euros or more. Pay as you go phones cost 19 euros, plus 35 euros for about 2 hours of talk time. Mcdonalds' Chicken nuggets, Fries, and a TINY bottle of water costs about 7 euros... that's ten dollars. 
  • Credit Cards have electronic chips here. Automated machines, like for train tickets, will only accept these credit cards. 
  • Longchamps bags are cheap in France, compared to buying them in the US at least. 
  • French stores only have sales twice a year: all of January and all of July. Each store participates, and the streets are full of people.
  • "Pay as you go" phones are NOT cost effective... already spent way too much reloading my phone. Looking into a deal for unlocking my phone instead.
  • Taxi drivers here are more aggressive than Chicago drivers. Yes, it's true, I've experienced it. 80km in a 30km zone.
  • Staying in one lane is apparently optional.
  • Parking spots, like driving in your own lane, are also optional. Today, I saw a car parked in the dead center of a parking lot because there were no other spots.
  • Driving in France is kind of... scary. Never thought about it much before, but in the US we have signs EVERYWHERE telling us how to drive: stop, go, one way, speed limit, etc. There are much fewer of these signs here. For instance, highways without a median in the middle have a speed limit of 90km/h, but if they have medians it is 110km/h. Most towns have a speed limit of 50 km/h unless otherwise posted. BUT if you didn't know this from taking driver's education here (or asking a local) you would have a hard time figuring it out-- the signs are far and few between. Stop signs are somewhat rare as well, you have to look to the ground instead to see what markings there are. Solid white line at intersection means stop, dashed white lines mean you can stop if necessary, and no line? Well, whoever is to the right of you has the right of way.
  •  Hotels with bathrooms that have bathtubs and not showers tend to be more expensive. Good thing I prefer showers!
  • Monaco is built upon many different levels of a huge hill. For this reason they have stairs everywhere and even public elevator access to get you to certain areas.
  • Apparently it is acceptable to advertise that your 12 million euro plane is for sale... on a piece of paper in a window of a traveling agency in Monaco. 
  • Having a shuttle service from a hostel that is on top of a hill is really nice-- especially when you have luggage.
  • Cities like Bordeaux, Nice, or Paris I would have never studied abroad in. Why not? Though I love the cities, I would have never been able to practice French. In these particular cities, people don't hesitate to speak in English if they have the chance and sometimes seem to prefer it.
  • There are wild pink Flamingos in France.

Daily Life:
  • Watch where you walk, people don't clean up after their dogs.
  • Montpellier is home to many stray cats.
  • It's perfectly acceptable to bring a dog, small or large, into a shopping mall. 
  • Similarly, it is okay to keep your dog off  of a leash-- even in the street.
  • France is not religious at all, but they still love taking days off for religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter. 
  •  May 1st is the "Fête du Travail", essentially labor day. My professor proudly described it as "A day to celebrate working-- so of course we don't work!"
  • Walking down a street is incredibly difficult. In the US, it's pretty standard to walk to the right so that people coming the opposite direction can walk past you on your left. There is absolutely NO system like this in France, from what I can tell. People come at all angles all the time, and will absolutely run into you if you do not move.
  • An American Consulate representative told us "If you get put in jail, hope to be caught in Monaco! They have a great view, and personal trainers at the gym." Good to know.
  • There seem to be a lot of young homeless people (aka SDFs) in downtown Montpellier. They all have dogs and hang out in big groups by the train station. People seem to think that they prefer the nomadic lifestyle, even though they could possibly afford a better lifestyle.
  • People who are from Southern France are not accustomed to the snow. It snowed for only a little, and nothing even stuck on the ground, but I saw two girls gathered around some leaves that had snow accumulate on them.
  •  In France it seems that the second there is gorgeous weather outside, everyone is outside for as long as they can be. And when you're in southern France that tends to be (nearly) every day! The French definitely love spending time outdoors and definitely lead a healthier lifestyle: More walking, more sunshine, less fast food, and a perfect mix of red wine and dark chocolate 
  • Tanning is not in style here. Normally this time of year I feel super pale, but I realized this year I don't feel that way because no one around me is tan or goes tanning! 
  • I will never complain about doing laundry in the States again. I thought ISU's $1.25 was expensive for each washer and dryer. Well, the laundry here costs anywhere between 2 and 4 euros per load for washers (depending on size) and another nearly 2 euros for 30 minutes of drying time. 
  • I have been able to find the following American brand names here and it makes me stupidly happy: Minute Maid, Ritz, Oreos, Skippy, Crest, Tampax, Redken, and... Sephora! 
  • Because the French are really good about energy conservation, when you turn on a light, the light bulbs are designed to take a bit longer to reach their full brightness potential.  
  • I've been told multiple times IF it does end up snowing this winter... almost everything shuts down because they are not equipped to handle the snow. Should be interesting to see how this works out.

No comments:

Post a Comment