Ten Things I Had Forgotten About France

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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!

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

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. 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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