Expat Living in France
Here are just a few anecdotes from the last month of my life in France as I try to navigate where I come from and where I live now. I love living in France, but sometimes you’ll have to allow me a little rant.
I ate at a hamburger restaurant in Avignon a few weeks ago. They only sell hamburgers. Quite delicious ones actually. I was at a table of English speakers, all Europeans except for one American and my Canadian self. When my delicious hamburger arrived, I daintily cut it in half and proceeded to pick it up with my hands. The French man at the next table was watching me closely. I shrugged in half penitence as I brought it my mouth. He looked at me and exclaimed, ” Eh, You’re not in Mac-do now!” Burger shame. It was my first time. For the rest of my meal, I was ridiculously self-conscious, but I still ate that burger with my hands!
Just kidding, it’s more like this:
French people normally eat their hamburgers with a knife and fork. This doesn’t make sense to me. I am North American and feel I have a right to the superior opinion on this issue. Don’t you agree? I wouldn’t scoff at how a Polish person eats their latkes, would I?
As the French order their burgers saignant, or rare, this knife and fork business is particularly disturbing. The rare burger ends up turning the whole meal into a soggy mess. I really don’t understand the point of putting it between a bun if there’s no texture. It’s like eating an egg salad sandwich on mushy bread. Yuck. I must admit, I have eaten a burger i France with a knife and fork before. The consistency compelled me to do so. And yes, I do order my burgers rare now.
In a recent effort to get into shape, I’ve joined a local gym. I struggled to keep up in the gym I joined for the 3 weeks while I was in Florida. Gasping for air and generally a lack of burpee coordination was slightly embarrassing. One day I couldn’t get out of bed after a particularly ass-whooping class. That was after I only managed to do half the exercises. Here in France, I was once told not to show off. The instructor wears a chiffon scarf. It isn’t very inspiring to know that she doesn’t intend on sweating!
There are three employees that work at my gym. They all come in at various times during the morning. I know of the French obsession with saying hello (see below) but this is a new extreme. Each employee insists on doing la bise with everyone while they’re trying to work out.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not very sociable when working out. It’s such an effort to stay on the treadmill that I really don’t need the distraction of trying to kiss someone at the same time. I’ve tried my best please leave me be face but it doesn’t seem to work. They probably know me as that cold English woman. Urgh. Life in France.
In the never ending process which is French bureaucracy, I was asked to get some documents translated. In France, for anything remotely official you have to go to an official translator. Bien sûr, translations by them cost 50 euros a page, even if it’s just a birth certificate with 4 words on it. They must really be raking in the dough. After translating 7 documents (you do the math) I presented myself once again at the necessary office. I was then told by the functionnaire’s colleague, sitting right across from her, that I didn’t actually need to translate said documents. It seems to be normal that workers in the same office give different information.
In horror at my wasted hard earned money, I sat with my mouth open as the woman just shrugged.
My mouth and angered stare quickly changed when she gave me a warning look, that said don’t you dare question me or I shall bury you in paperwork…
Pride? What pride. At least I have my social security number.
That English Accent
My accent isn’t that bad but I still have quite a bit of trouble with feminine and masculine words. I get them, and of course, verb conjugations, mixed up all the time. Don’t even get my started on the dreaded subjunctive conjugation.
When I help out at the market I tell my friends to correct me. They’re all men. They’ve recently informed me that they will never correct me because they think my mistakes are sexy. I’m going to have to get some French girlfriends.
When living in another country one must assimilate. I’ve become used to always saying Bonjour to people especially that work in stores or offer services. Sometimes even French people forget or don’t think to reply Bonjour and oh my you should see the looks of almost hatred and eye rolling they get. The offenders are usually Parisian visiting the South. Not saying hello before you ask for something is considered as an insult. It’s as if you think they’re below you or that you’re too important to acknowledge them. After three and a half years of living here, I believe this now as well. I often deal with tourists at the market and I’ve noticed that many people bark their orders before saying hello. I warn you now! Please don’t do this!
I bought a little punnet of strawberries one week before the strawberry festival here in Provence last week. I was walking in my village when I offered one to the florist who backed up in horror away from my ruby red strawberry and said it was chemical! It was one week before strawberries are considered ripe. One week.
I’ve also only just switched to the fresh peas, that I lovingly shell by hand, that have come from the area. They are 10 euros a kilo while the Spanish versions are 6 euros. Don’t be caught buying the Spanish ones! I must admit that the local ones are indeed worth the extra money. They are so fresh that you’ll often find flowers still on them.
Does anyone else have any anecdotes from their time in France? Do you live in a different country to where you grew up? Has it changed you?