While we were in Burundi two years ago, I wrote a blog post about the top 10 things I missed about life in the U.S. As we have now been living in France for 7 months, I wanted to write a similar post, given a different perspective. However, it occurred to me that life in France is not really comparable to life in Burundi. It is true that language learning has been extremely challenging (and sometimes humiliating). However, overall France is a pretty comfortable place to live for a year. In fact, aside from our family and friends back home, the only thing I could think of that I really miss is nachos. Yes, nachos. As rich as France is in history, culture and cuisine, when it comes to Mexican food, it remains deeply impoverished. So, instead I decided to compile a list of the top 10 things I have found most surprising about France.
- This is a beautiful country. Granted, the US is a beautiful country as well, and we have similar landscapes back home. The difference is, you cannot drive across the U.S. in a single day, as you can in France. In France, within 4 hours you can go from skiing in the Alps, to sitting on a beach on the French Riviera. But what also makes France so beautiful is the buildings. Rather than demolishing old buildings, the French preserve them. And it seems that in every city or village you pass through, there is a church or cathedral, often hundreds of years old which hovers overhead. The doors of these churches are almost always open. It often feels like being transported back in time.
- It is really hard to find a full "American" sized cup of coffee in France. When you order a “coffee” you get a tiny cup, filled with a tiny amount of coffee. In fact, the only place in Albertville where I have found I can get a “normal” sized cup of coffee is McDonalds. Sadly, there is no Starbucks in Albertville. In fact, I think the closest Starbucks is in Lyon or Geneva, both 2 hours away.
- The French do NOT drink liquids on the go. If you see someone walking down the street carrying a coffee mug, it is a pretty safe bet that they are not French.
- Despite having been the host of the 1992 Olympics, Albertville is not a tourist destination. Many people pass THROUGH Albertville on their way to nearby ski resorts, but it is rare to run into another American in town who is not a student at our language school.
- Before our arrival, many people warned us about the exorbitant cost of living in France. We have not found this to be true. Granted, there are some things that are more expensive here (such as gas), but overall, food and rent are pretty comparable to what we paid in Bellingham.
- The French word for foosball is “le baby-foot”. How cute is that? Because they have little tiny baby feet!
- Highway rest stops in France are amazing! Given our frequent weekend road trips, I like to think I have become a connaisseur of rest stops (classy, I know). They are always immaculate, with clean bathrooms and often a general store where you can find just about anything you can imagine. And the food is outstanding.
- While many Americans have trouble adjusting to “La bise”, the custom of kissing on each cheek when greeting someone, the French find hugging to be WAY to intimate. They can’t seem to understand why Americans always want to be so close to someone so quickly.
- The French are not, in general, an easily excitable people. But if you want to shock a French person who is curious about life in America, tell them how much you pay for health insurance.
- French culture is more influenced by American culture than I thought it would be. American music is played everywhere here, American films are shown in the theaters (usually overdubbed in French). While I think most Americans would be hard pressed to name even 1 French actor or musician, the French are very familiar with many of ours. Yes, they even dig Justin Bieber.
I drive down this street 4 times each day, as our girls school is right behind the church at the end.