Life in France as an Expat Part II
Life as an immigrant in another country is never easy. A friend of mine recently managed to mix up the French work to cook “faire cuire” with to drive “conduire.” This resulted in her explaining to the butcher how she was going to drive the chicken with lots of butter and herbs. It took a good 5 minutes of hand motions before all the employees understood what she was saying. This was only because they brought out someone’s kid from the storage room who understands a good amount of English thanks largely, to Netflix.
Here’s a continuation of some of my personal anecdotes that were so popular in my original article about life in France. Feel free to add some of your own!
A Chinese Meal
When you live in the countryside in Provence, there are little foreign food options other than pizza. The other night I was in a larger town in the Luberon when a friend proposed we eat at a Chinese restaurant. I was excited!
We were a large group and he ordered for the table. I was looking forward to noodles and egg fried rice and spring rolls or ‘Nems’ even if they were the French version. I’m certainly not a connoisseur of Chinese food. What was placed in front of me? A searing hot plate piled high with frogs legs. Yes, frogs legs.
Now, I’m not complaining as frogs legs are actually quite nice. Were they in a Chinesey sauce? Something to satisfy my salty-umami craving? No, a persillade. It just doesn’t get any more French than that. Frogs legs in lots of butter, parsley, and garlic. Sigh.
Meanwhile, at the Saint Remy de Provence market. The Chinese stallholder always arrives late, creating havoc with the other market workers. The first thing he does even before putting his stand in place? He sets up the barriers to guide people in line waiting to buy from him. These local Frenchies just can’t get enough Nems!
A Clean Car
As an expat, you often find that everything you do is scrutinized and labeled as a character trait of all people from your particular nation*.
One such example is my appreciation of a clean car. I have a vintage mini. It’s quick to wash and too low to go into one of the automatic machines. I also live in the countryside where pollen at this time of year covers everything in a yellow mist. Not to mention the massacre of bugs on my windscreen whenever I go anywhere.
My neighbours are fascinated that I wash my own car. They can’t help but point out my North-Americanness whenever I do so. Someone even tried to convince me that having a beautiful, dirty car is the height of classiness???
The men especially like my car washing. It may be the car, or me, or a chick washing a car, or all three. But oh my the smiles I get!
I think, in their minds, they’re seeing this: (starting from 3 min mark)
I might have to put some Canadian short shorts on next time to maintain the image…
*French people are actually obsessed with where you’re born. I’ve been introduced to people using only their nationality or what city they’re from. “La Belge” or “La Parisienne”. This is unfortunate if you don’t appreciate where you come from, as well as it can be tricky to remember people’s actual names!
The Village Fête
The annual village fête (party) is a serious business. In Les Alpilles, this is a weekend of bull running and uncharacteristic French debauchery. Many French people I know like to have a glass of wine with dinner, perhaps two. That’s it. I think they’re saving it all year for the village fête. I know people that have it written into their work contracts that they will not be expected to work on the date of their local village fête, not matter what day of the week it falls on. Amazing!! Some people even take the week off. It consists, after much bull running, of cheesy 80s music, perhaps some half-clad dancers, and makeshift bars that are set up in the village squares. A glass of rosé or pastis costs 2,50€ in a plastic cup.
One generally has many of these, starting at around 11 am. You see some people that you never see out and about in the village- everyone surfaces for this event! At midday, the Aioli is served. People half-heartedly eat it while dancing around the bar, meeting up with old friends, and more cups of rosé and pastis. By 3 pm, you drunkenly stumble over to the Toro Piscine* and then, if you manage to stumble home, collapse in your front entrance. Or, at least, this is the experience of everyone I know, expats and locals alike.
*Toro Piscine involves people teasing a bull trying to get it into a kiddie pool, or the other way around!
Curious about bull running events in Provence? Check out my article about the Bandido-Abrivado.
For more anecdotes about life in France, check out Life in France as an Expat Part I.