France Diary, Month One
Have you ever been woken up by someone and they asked you a question but you were still half asleep and couldn’t quite tell if it was a dream or reality? Welcome to my new permanent state of being.
After a month in France, I consider myself qualified to discuss what I consider to be “French Norms”, so I thought I would start this blog post by sharing a few of the strange little things I’ve noticed in France before I go and shower you with all my emotions and such.
1. French Hallways = Streets of Upper East Side New York
I honestly have so much fun getting dressed for school in the morning. In the US, there’s a sort of mutual understanding that you’ll dress nice one or two days during the week, but you won’t ever try too hard. Wearing a blazer, wedge boots, and nice jewelry would raise some eyebrows at my school back home, but here in France it’s 100% socially acceptable to look nice everyday simply because you want to.
2. Four way stops are for losers; roundabouts are the new Stan Smiths of traffic regulation
3. The fries at KFC are not potato wedges (I’ll wait a moment while that blows your mind)
4. School Sports aren’t a thing.
Exercising after school will probably be a logistical nightmare, but its worth looking up a gym or club to join online. I found a gym that offers a ton of classes and it’s really great!
5. Showers are not waterfalls
By this I mean that you have to manually maneuver the shower head to wash your hand and put it down while you put in shampoo or shave- Ugh, Life’s hard when you’re a lazy American that doesn’t enjoy the extra effort it takes to lift a shower head.
6. Nutella is the ultimate condiment
Baguettes, granola bars, rice cakes, waffles… if you need to jazz up a snack, Nutella is there in abundance
7. School is LONG
8. Tote Bags = Frenchie / Backpacks = Foreigner! Foreigner! RED ALERT!
9. Washing your hands isn’t so important here
You’ll be surprised how many toilette rooms don’t have a sink or don’t have soap. (Take advantage of Bath and Body Works and buy some hand sanitizer before coming to Europe, my friends.)
10. Yes, walking around a city or school yard means walking through clouds of cigarette smoke.
So, the question that only my friends and family really care about- How am I doing?
Well, I do really like France, and I find that it is both incredibly similar and extremely different from what I imagined. I’m beginning to fall into the rhythm of French life and I feel more and more comfortable every day.
I still may be terrible at navigating the bus system, but I can find my way across my school’s campus and have successfully ordered from a French Starbucks. They only messed up the names a little bit…
(btw… These are the cups of Lucie and Amanda)
I think that the one thing I miss the most about my home back in the States is the woods. This may sound strange to some people, but I spend a lot of time outdoors wandering through the woods or sitting on the golf course behind my house listening to music, and there just isn’t anywhere here for me to do that. I’ve recently discovered that sitting in my windowsill gives a similar effect, but it’s still not the same as being surrounded by trees and birds with nothing man-made visible in any direction.
Here, there are a lot of fields and not so much forest.
Because of this, I’ve been forced to find beauty and serenity in other things here. Two weeks ago, my host family took me to Bruges, Belgium, a town known as the Venice of the North, and I finally felt the flutter in my chest that I get when I’m sitting outdoors with my headphones and the wind whips by.
It was a cloudy, windy day, my favorite type of weather, and as I stood in front of the river looking at the willow trees drooping over the water, and looked at the old, beautiful buildings that lined the cobblestone streets, I realized that Europe’s charm is in its cities.
History tells its story along the streets of cities like Bruges, just as the muffled whispers and chirps in New England Forests tell their own tales. I ate a Belgian Waffle instead of a granola bar, and listening to French conversations instead of Woodkid’s Run Boy Run, but the same shivers ran down my spine.
I’ll find ways to enjoy the scenery, even if it looks a little different from home.