Things I Learned in France

Published October 13, 2012 by mindfulofchatter

I am now home from France. After a marathon day of travel we both fell into our hotel room to sleep before driving home. With a 10+ hour International flight, a 3.5 hour connecting flight and a 9 hour time change we were both pretty beat.

I didn’t find France to be romantic or even all that pretty. It looked the rural Midwest with old stone buildings, cobblestone streets and people speaking French. It really just wasn’t what I expected. A lot of myths were busted.

The French are rude to Americans.

Nope. Everyone we met was very nice and helped us when we needed it. Even the angry Metro ticket lady whose visit with her friend we interrupted to ask directions. She was not happy we didn’t know where we were going or how to use the ticket machine (Metro lines are different costs depending on which lines you are taking. We didn’t know what lines to take, so we didn’t know what tickets we needed). Yet, after rolling her eyes at us, she came out of the ticket booth and showed us how to use the machine, told us what which lines we needed and made sure we got the machine to work properly. When we decide to go to the HUGE ladies department store (this thing is like 10 floors of designer label stuff. Each floor is devoted to one thing. So a floor of nothing but shoes, a floor of handbags, etc.) and we couldn’t find the right street. We stepped into a shop and asked directions. The man we asked, put on his coat, walked out of his shop and WALKED us to the proper corner and pointed out the streets and turns we needed to make. Try to get an American in a big city to do that.

All French women dress to kill all the time.

Again, nope. I saw very few women, even in Paris, who were wearing high heels. Most wore ballet flats or boots. While everyone looked neat and clean (no PJ bottoms or house shoes – thank goodness), no one was dressed to kill. From skirts to jeans, everyone looked nice, but not over dressed. The only over dressed people I saw were tourists. Everyone does seem to wear a freakin’ scarf, though. Men, women and children all sport a scarf almost all the time.

French men are all romantic saps.

Well, maybe. If you ever get one to talk to you. The French are not people who chit-chat with strangers. While I did get a lot of men staring at me (the 6′ foot tall American woman was a fascination to these guys), no one said a word to me unless I was buying something. A few smiled at me, but that was it. So much for the great French romance while on holiday.

All French women are skinny.

Nope. I saw skinny women (all about 5″1′ or so), but I also saw a lot of normal weight women, plump women and a few very plump women. I never saw an obese person. No 300 pounders. Not a one.

Skinny jeans are for everyone.

Yup. There seemed to be no age limit on skinny jeans. Men wore them, women in their 20’s wore them, women over 50 wore them, kids wore them and everyone managed to look good in them. I bought three pair at the urging of the shoe sales girl who spoke very good English. When I tried to tell her I was too fat, she insisted I looked great (I love that girl) and should go get some. She was right. I look smokin’ hot in my French jeans.

What I didn’t get was the ‘slower’ life style so many people talk about. Paris is bustling and busy. People are moving fast going about their day. Traffic never ceases and flows at an insane pace. Even during the famous midi, people are rushing here and there. A few people sit in the cafes for a long time, but not many. Even in the smaller towns we visited, people were constantly moving. I guess my life is already slower and more relaxed, because I didn’t see a difference.

France does not really believe in side walks. The ancient streets are one car wide. And that’s if you a driving a tiny car. The sidewalks that go with those narrow streets are about 2 to 4 bricks wide. And I mean your stand little red brick, laid with the narrow sides next to each other. They are often slanted at odd angels and hard to walk on. You must go single file or walk in the street. The larger streets in Paris have almost normal sized sidewalks, but they park scooter and motorcycles on the sidewalks, so you right back to rather narrow walkways.

People are people no matter where you go. At midi, men sit in groups of 2 – 6 and talk about politics, the weather, sports and women. Women sit in groups of 2 -4 and gossip about other women, men and maybe fashion. They laugh, talk and eat. Elbows are allowed on the table, dessert after lunch is desired and often followed by a café or thé.

Dogs are welcome everywhere.

Yes! You can bring a dog in a restaurant and eat with him sitting at your feet. You can go shopping and bring your dog. We saw a lady in shoe store trying on shoes with her little terrier watching her. At he grocery store, a dog waited inside the store near the checkout while his master did the evening shopping. We had lunch in a little restaurant near a little dog and his master. I liked that, even though I know a lot of Americans would find it gross.

I think who you travel with makes a huge difference on how you see France. I was with my sister. Not very romantic, is it. We have so little in common lifestyle wise, we often clashed on what to do and when to do it. She wanted to blend in, I didn’t give a crap if I blended in or not. It turns out, I dress more French than she does. What makes me stand out is my height. The French are not tall people and a 6′ tall anyone stands out like a zombie at a Rainbow Bright Parade.

At least I learned that France is not place I want to live. I will keeping my hiney in the U.S. for now. I would like to visit the U.K. someday. Maybe I’ll like that a bit better.





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