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Ten Things I Had Forgotten About France

Every­body speaks French! In Ottawa, I rarely hear “Parisian French”, and if I do, I tend to turn around and glance at who­ever talked. Well, I keep on doing that here: when­ever I hear French, I turn around. And I really have to stop doing it. This is France.

Every­thing is tiny: peo­ple, cars, streets, apart­ments etc.

Woman all seem to dress the same: boots, leg­gings, a skirt or “skinny” jeans, and their beloved scarf. And all they wear is black, light black, dark black and… oh yeah, grey.

French bread is still awe­some and they are still a lot of inde­pen­dent bak­eries every­where. Phew.

French are a bit grumpy and always seem to be reluc­tant to serve you. And when they do, it’s like they are doing you a huge favour. God­dammit, I’m pay­ing for that baguette, can you please hand it to me?!

There is a lot of police every­where. I rarely see the cops in Ottawa, unless there is a traf­fic accident.

There are school-aged kids and teens hang­ing out in the street at noon and in the evening. No yel­low school buses to shut­tle every­one home here!

Brit­tany is damp. It’s 15°C but it feels much colder because of the con­stant humid­ity and light drizzle.

Stores close early. I wanted to buy the news­pa­per yes­ter­day, and I rushed to the news agent at 7:10 p.m. Tough luck, it was closed. What­ever you need to do, get it done before 7:00 p.m.!

Being in France feels like being stuck in a time-wrap. Noth­ing ever changes. For instance, two years ago, I clearly remem­ber a heated local debate about build­ing a new air­port in the city (the mayor approved, the con­stituents didn’t). Two years later, the head­lines in the news­pa­pers are the exact same!

24 comments

  1. Salut Zhu,

    Are you back in France? How long are you going to be there?

    Every­time I go to Madrid I feel like an stranger in my own home­town. Every­thing looks the same but dif­fer­ent at the same time.

    When was the last time you vis­ited France?

    Take care,
    M.

    • I last vis­ited a bit less than two years ago, and I’m here until April 11 (3 weeks in total). Yes, vis­it­ing always feels a bit strange!

  2. i thought you’re gonna list down ten things like you always do, lol!

    any­way, back in the old world, the feel­ing must be strange yet famil­iar at the same time eh? ;)

    some­times changes dont nec­es­sar­ily mean a good thing. for me, i wouldn’t want a his­toric old town to lose its charms to mod­ern devel­op­ments! :)

    • That’s exactly how it feels: famil­iar yet for­eign. But I’m not as sur­prised as I was when I first came back after a long time abroad, I know what to expect now.

  3. Ditto what kyh said, some­times it’s great when things don’t change. Things change too much in Canada!

  4. What shocked me the most when I was back in France (after, uh, about 5-years absence) is how much peo­ple smoke every­where! There is the ten­ta­tive “smok­ing” sec­tion in restau­rants, but no restric­tion in the café ter­races or in a pub­lic place. As long as it’s out­side, nobody seems to care light­ing a cig­a­rette in your face even if you didn’t ask for it!

    As a non smoker, this is some­thing that I find quite dis­agree­able. I had actu­ally quite for­got­ten all about it after so many years in Canada where the non-smoking pol­icy seems to be the norm!

    • I don’t see it as much now. Most French seem to abide by the non-smoking laws. They do smoke on ter­races and patio but frankly, it doesn’t bother me. I find the atti­tude towards smok­ers a bit too much in Canada some­times. That said, I agree: respect is the key.

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