Just arriving 2 weeks ago to the land of Brie cheese, wine and baguettes, we note different cultural differences we must adjust to. Some are similar to the rest of Europe and a few are just specific to France.
Enjoy, as we share our ‘top ten’ list.
#1 Dog Pooh
Imagine a walk where you don’t have to look down to see where you step! But up into the beautiful sites of the French scenery around you!
Like many places in Europe, with no open fields for the pets to do their business, you will find animal feces on the side of the road. Village living, I thought, would be exempt from this practice, with loads of fields and marshes to take your dog to? It is not, to our recent discover! Parks even provide doggie dodo bags, yet, watch your step in France!
Where we are from, it is up to a $2000 fine if caught leaving your bacteria full animal excrement on the street or even a park.
On a happy note: I did notice street cleaners each morning cleaning the streets, and they get most the crap off the road before we get there. Other lanes seem exempt from cleaning. So stick to the main roads. We learned our lesson!
#2 Daily Bread
Give us this day our daily bread, especially if it is made fresh 3 times a day, soft and warm for our consumption.
My pants are tight; therefore I must be in France! Between Brie cheese, fresh bread, and cheap wine, I haven’t a chance! I plan to take Alfonz down the naughty road of gluttony with me. It is my favorite sin!
If happiness is rest, then the French must have mastered the art of the nap. Between 12:00 and 1:30, but sometimes-stretched way out until 4:00, is their traditional siesta time. The store signs turn over to ‘closed’, and don’t bother slipping in just before thinking they will take you, they won’t let you in.
The French value their time; as they work to live, not live to work! Brilliant! Canada should adopt this custom.
It might stem from the hot summers when a nap seems like the thing to do during the hottest part of the day. It just doesn’t stop after the summer heat dissipates, but carries through the whole year.
One interesting off shoot of this, is trying to figure out when stores are closed or not. Sometimes they stay closed until late in the evening, and others stay open. Some take Sundays and Mondays off, where others open only during the Sunday markets. A man told us, once you think you have figured the store schedules out, you will realize you know nothing at all!
#4 Very Late Dinner
The French eat dinner in the late evening, after 7:30, some as late as 10:00pm. We are so hungry by the time 5:30 rolls around, we feast and still go out for a walk to burn it off, and have a little snack, maybe a yogurt and apples before bed.
We slowly change towards the custom, and try to eat later and later. I have been told, it is so hot in the summer months, that most people don’t eat until after it cools down, and that that is where the tradition came from.
#5 The Double Cheek Kiss
Not to be confused with the much more popular French kiss, for obvious reasons, the double-cheeked kiss is done upon first and the last time you see someone during the day. You start on the right side, and then the left. Most don’t actually kiss but make the sound. Very cute, and very French!
#6 No Helmut Laws
Our family is used to the constrictive, yet useful laws around road safety. It is mandatory to wear protective gear while riding your bike, scooter or skateboard.
Here they ride without helmets! A fall from a pedal bike on one of these side streets could crack your child’s head open like an egg, yet most kids ride without any protection. Daniel and Angelina have used helmets while riding their whole lives. When we got here, they asked why the French don’t use them? We assured them that it will be an eventually law. I hope so for the safety of the French children, riding on the streets.
#7 Church Bells
I cannot sleep here. The reason is simple. The bells are only a hundred yards from my head! It hasn’t registered as background noise yet. My brain will not think that 12 loud rings from a bell is a normal sound in the middle of the night.
I wake up every hour on the hour.
Last night I even woke up just before and thought where’s the bell. And sure enough it followed right along. Cross your fingers for me. Soon I will go insane from lack of sleep! It is slowly getting better.
#8 Home for Lunch, School Kids
I love this! Alfonz and I are house hunting and not able to be home during the day, just like families that work, but most kids go home for lunch, especially if they have a younger sibling home with mom.
With no home packed school lunches aloud in school, there is no cause for allergy alarms. The school provides a hot basic nutritious lunch for a small fee if you are unable to get them home for lunch. If we had already bought a home, we would be picking up our kids like the majority of the French families.
I love that if it is not raining our neighbors have loads of laundry hanging out their window. The lady next door is the cleanest woman I have ever seen. Hanging her clothes, sheets and comforters every chance she gets.
Sometimes I nudge Alfonz smiling when I see a back yard full of hanging clothes. I begged him in White Rock to let me have a line strung from one corner of our yard to the other. It was always no. But here, if you don’t have a line with dozens of clips holding up your clothes swaying in the breeze, you are not energy efficient, or very French now are you!
I caught my kids washing their feet in it and Daniel slept walked during the night to relieve himself in it. It is the infamous bidet.
On Oprah, I saw an extraordinary French woman claim that sex is free and should be enjoyed as often as possible, being good for your health and may keep you young. She went on to say that this is the custom of the French!
Now I understand the necessity of the bidet!
Water is very expensive in France and to take a North American version of a shower each and everyday is highly unlikely. The idea of a quick wash makes sense.
The bidet was invented sometime before the 17th century, and for some reason has caught on. Most residential bathrooms have one. SO if you come to France, don’t be alarmed, now you know what it is!
Vive la France!