Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
Well, well, who would’ve thought it? Now I am back from France… there seems to be a strange pull tugging at my heartstrings. Very strange indeed. After convincing every Francophile I met that Germany is THE place to be and questioned them with things like:
How dare they serve beer in small wine glasses and charge up to 5 Euros?
Why can they not cook a piece of meat for just a few minutes longer so you don’t need to eat off a blood-soaked plate..
However, after a while, I started to notice their faults less and slowly began to see the positives. Unwillingly at first, but I could not fight it and now that I have left the land of the frogs, here are some of those positives I really do miss:
Yes, the French are not well known for their time keeping skills nor for their early arrivals to meetings. They are unrushed and they would like to stay that way. From 10am starts to 2 hour lunches.. you can see why they are known as “lazy”. However, lazy they are not. The work gets done. They will not however rush about like a maniac and “look busy” like their other Western counterparts. I liked this.
Ohh dear, are the French honest! Thick skin will develop promptly if you are around the Frenchies for any length of time. For, they will not hold back. At first, I of course thought that it was pure rudeness. But no, they actually do not mean to be rude nor to hurt your feelings but quite simply, they want to tell you the truth.
Eg. (Let’s talk about sunburn) When I was very badly sunburnt on my face, my colleague came in to my office, saw me, and immediately commented on my sunburn, how terrible it looked and whether I thought about applying some cream on my face… I told her that I already used up half a jar the morning alone and that it wasn’t That bad. My then boyfriend saw me next and immediately commented on my face, and how funny it looked with bits of make-up coming off it and maybe I should not have put any on it at all and why was it two different colours anyway. All of this left me feeling disheartened especially as my British friends would not say a word about it so why did the French? Well, long story short – they absolutely do not mean to make you feel bad. They just like to be honest with you in case you didn’t know. Your roots are showing? They’ll tell you! You are tired? They’ll tell you (and comment on needing more make up etc.). They are being helpful, honest!
Of course, every country has its majestic scenery, from the Yorkshire dales to the Swiss alps to the Bavarian lakes etc. All those places are wonderful. Yet France, is wonderfully special in its own way as well. Living near Paris meant that I enjoyed the city and all it had to offer but also the countryside where I was, with a beautiful forest, lake and (usually) marvellous weather. Taking the train ride left me staring out of the window at the passing landscapes and proof of the country’s beautiful scenery. I have heard many-a-time the saying “France would be beautiful if it weren’t for the people” so that brings me along to my next point
This is closely linked with the honesty point, but one trait again that I deeply admire, is their outspokenness. If they do not like something, they will say it. If they are not getting good service, they will say it (and not tip). And probably never come back to the place again. They know their mind and they know the difference between good/bad and right/wrong. Too many times have I been with people who are all too polite to say something or think another person will handle the situation. The French will take matters into their own hands (if they are not busy striking) and get the problem(s) solved
Now this, I miss greatly. If anyone has ever lived in France, they will know why. Taking Paris as an example – huge city, lots of people but every time I went for a meal or a cocktail or a coffee, I was able to hear myself think. For the French are very, very quiet. They converse in such low tones that you are never able to make out what they are saying. Even when you are sat approximately 30cm from their table. Whereas in England, I will always gravitate towards a corner of a pub/restaurant and even then, will have to listen to extensively loud gossip/laughter from across the room; in France, you are practically touching elbows with someone yet the quietness prevails. Therefore when I would go to eat with my friend and we would talk (normally I thought), we would often get quite a few stares from the French who wanted to see, and not hear us.
So that is my recap of what do I miss about Frogland. The funny thing is – I don’t think you can ever find another place which will have all these qualities apart from France itself. I have never, ever been a fan of the French but my year spent in Paris has taught me this: Never say never.