Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The many things I've learned living in France...

  At first I was going to put a number on the post title, like ' the 10 things I learned, the 20 things..' but after brainstorming a bit, I realized I couldn't narrow these 'pearls of wisdom' down so here goes... However, I will semi-categorize them for clarity.

Driving or car related

     My old coach at Santa Clara used to tell us, 'bumpers are for bumping.' But what he forgot to tell us was 'doors are for dinging.'  Something the french seem to have down to an art.

     1 way streets can easily be turned into a 2 way street by just throwing some dotted lines down the center. No need to expand or widen the road, just slap on some paint and you're golden...which leads me back to the above point, 'bumpers are for bumping'.

     Any lane can be made into a parking spot and/or waiting lane by stopping, leaning over, putting on your hazards and ignoring every evil eye or honk that comes your way. Oh, and in order to fully embrace this method, you mustn't under any circumstances give the person behind you warning as to what you are about to do.

     Blinkers are used to let you know they are coming over into your lane. Often times, they are used after one has already started the move.

     When making a right turn in the right lane, one will veer way left before making the turn as to get the best angle (as instructed in their boat steering manual that conveniently doubles as a driver's manual).

     Motorcycles and scooters are everywhere. Not required to stay in a lane ( read: swerve in and out of traffic and are really annoyingly dangerous), they often times slide by cars in bike lanes, breakdown lanes etc... And it is not only nice, but expected to maneuver your car out of the way to accommodate them. By doing so, you will get a nice leg shake as a thank you when they zoom by you as you are still stuck in traffic now at an odd angle.

     Speed cameras do work. They have caught us 2 or 3 times in 11 years and one of Shaun's teammates was just informed that he received 15 in the last 2 months...seriously, not a typo, 15.


     The french dress for the seasons, no matter what the weather. That means, if it is still winter and it is 65, you still wear your heavy coat, boots, scarves and gloves.

     They don't follow 'fashion rules'. On one hand it is refreshing, on another, I am thinking the rules are there for a reason: to help the majority of people look good. I see a lot of white after labor day, genie pants that Shaun so accurately describes as 'pooped your pants' pants, and other unflattering ( or as the mainstream would describe unflattering) silhouettes on ladies and men alike. However, I do not see the ' middle-america' stereotype 'jean sweatshirt and sneakers' outfit, bonus!

     The color red with some copper and purple in it is, by far, hands down, the most popular hair color for ladies in France. I mean all ages too.

     They have perfected scarf wearing to a 't'. I now own plenty of scarves thanks to my many inspirations here.

     If you don't own at least 5 pair of pattern stockings ( and wear them, cause we all have those crazy printed ones in our closets'), you aren't French.

     Wearing shirts with English writing on them is ' à la mode/trendy'. However, upon further inspection, the sayings rarely make sense. The other day I saw a girl with a shirt that said ' you're boyfriend look me.' Wait, what!?! I almost wanted to tell her but then I realized my French most likely would of sounded like this, ' your shirt no make sense, I am of an American girl who talks in english so trust in me', so I smiled and walked on. And don't get me started on the New York Yankees hats with a Red Sox jacket. Don't they realize that is like wearing a OM shirt with a PSG hat?

Life in general

     Some things translate with out a word spoken. For example, the eye roll and heavy sigh I witnessed from a husband the other day at Ikea clearly translating that he was bored and not happy his wife had drug him there. I have seen that look and heard that sigh many a times from Shaun on both French and American soil, no translating necessary.

     The French, and many Europeans, whistle instead of boo.

     When a restaurant or store says it closes at 11, that means the place is cleaned, the lights are off and the employees are in their car at 11.

     They don't rush you out of your table at restaurants and going so far as some times you have to ask for your check. It is nice to be able to sit and enjoy a meal and lose track of time...sometimes. 

     In a traditional French dinner, they eat their salads after their meal. 

     There has never been a baguette in history that has made it home with out some part of it nibbled off (in our house hold it is more like one third is missing.)

     No matter how many check-out counters there are at Auchun or Carrefour ( our grocery stores), the amount that are actually open is baffling, as in maybe 10%. And the only people who seem to be bothered by it are the foreigners. I have attempted my best 'eye roll and heavy sigh' like the man at Ikea many times in order to speed things up.

      I don't think there is a translation for personal space in the french language. That was mistakenly left out. If you can not identify the type of gum, deodorant and or laundry detergent someone uses in front of you while standing in line, you are not close enough. And if you are not willing to do it, someone will kindly move from behind you in line to do it themselves. I like to give my hair and nice swish as a friendly 'back off' and if that doesn't work, I can always go to the no fail  'Ikea eye roll and heavy sigh'.

  For all of these, there are many more and the sooner you come to accept these, the happier you will be. After all these years, we still have our off days where we become impatient with things but then realize that even after all of the above, good or bad, we still love it here and that makes us realize what a special place it is.






  1. And what about the "make- up stores" on every other corner where you can totally re do all, and I mean all your make up. And walk away looking like a so called folies bergere " dancer."
    Or the fact that I always wanted to turn the side mirrors in so we didn't smack mirrors going down the side streets. That the cars were actually so close you could smell the other persons cologne, ....no wait they don't wear cologne.

  2. Yep, you're right. Forgot that 'side mirrors are for swiping'.