Image by Brooklyn Museum via Flickr
My daughter who, with her family has been living in Paris for the past 3 ½, years recently sent me the attached, a compilation of observations from friends and ex-pats. She assures me it is a pretty accurate assessment, which I think is quite an amusing commentary on the French way of life – pluses and minuses.
You know you are living in France…………..
When you give your children ‘snails’ for dinner and they adore them!!
When you kiss “hello” to everyone you meet!!
When you open your windows in the morning to ‘air’ everything!!
When you take off your shoes when you go to someone’s house!!
When you 9 year-old son asks if he can have a snack and comes out of the fridge with cheese and olives
When you see a car parked, facing the wrong way, on a one-way street
When your 4 year old son brings home a recreation of a Matisse
When you make a quick dinner for your daughter and she asks if it’s the ‘premier plat’
When you smile at someone in the street & they don’t smile back
When the boulanger takes an extra 5 minutes to wrap up your pastry selection in a box with a bow and their logo sticker DESPITE there being a long line of customers waiting to be served.
When you can place items in your bag while shopping to be paid for at the register WITHOUT being accused of shoplifting.
When you are asked by the doctor to disrobe and he/she doesn’t give you some sort of cover-up to put on during the examination!
When a man asks you out without being in the slightest bit concerned that you have a husband!
When you visit the butcher, the cheese shop, the wine shop, the bakery, and the fruit & veg market all in a one block radius of your house
When you wouldn’t dare leaving the house in tennis shoes or a sweatshirt
When you see the scarves come out as soon as the temps plummet to 15C/60F
When the waiters leave you alone and don’t refill your glass or ask “how is everything” every 5 minutes
When only close friends call you by your first name
When you walk into a pharmacy that sells lotions, pills and tinctures for” Jambes Lourd” (what the heck is that?)
When you might just see the whole animal in the butcher’s window
When there is a charity to send poor people on vacation
When someone pushes you on the bus/metro a couple of minutes before the stop in order to be the first off, and the offender is at least 90 years old
When there is no shame (or fear) in unemployment
When if you don’t like one doctor you can just pick another and see them without having to go through your insurance provider first
When you can invite people over for just an aperitif
When you can give your dinner guests the stinkiest cheese in the world and they will still congratulate you on the meal!!!
When you walk out of your GYN’s office with your pap smear in your purse to take to the post office to mail to the lab
When you finally get the kids to the park to find it’s been closed
When you jump the queue because you’re pregnant
When you are walking your dog and stop to pick up his poo and one of your kids steps in someone else’s dog’s poo
When your daughter says “oh la la” when she drops something
When you can ride a bike in a skirt and heels
When every time you see the Eiffel Tower sparkling it gives you shivers
When you go to the fruit seller and you are asked whether it’s to be eaten today or tomorrow
When you have to ask 3 or 4 times for the check at a restaurant
When the elevator only fits 2 people
When you go into a shop to buy something, but they refuse to ring you up because it’s 5 min. to closing
When you go to the butchers & you’re told exactly how to cook the meat you’ve bought
When you suddenly become popular and have houseguests all the time
When a man calls to your house to tell you for a fee he will sharpen all your kitchen knives
When the shop assistants offer to gift wrap your purchases, even when it’s not Christmas
When buying a bottle of wine, the wine merchant asks you what you plan to eat with it
When even if you’re first in the queue at the bus stop, that doesn’t mean you’ll be first onto the bus
When you walk into the ladies’ room at work while the cleaning man is there and you both say hello and go on with your business
When you consider slipping quietly out of a party so you don’t have to kiss 25 people goodbye (whom you already kissed hello).
When the best ice cream shop in the city is closed during the entire month of August
When the same shop is open all through winter
When your 6yo corrects your pronunciation coz she can do that ‘r’
When dogs are allowed in restaurants but not in the parks
When you find yourself doing that shoulder shrug combined with the “pfff” sound
When the only employee at the doctor’s office is the doctor! He/she answers the phones, schedules the appointments, weighs/measures/takes blood pressure, gives shots, and spends a minimum of 30 minutes with you and it costs you next-to-nothing
When doctors still make housecalls
When you’re served champagne at a 3-yr-old’s birthday party
When the perfectly coiffed chic woman ahead of you in line wearing high heeled shoes, a tight little skirt and equally tight top on her trim little body, turns around and is older than your grandmother.
When anything above size 36 is considered a Plus size
When coffee at breakfast time is served in a cereal bowl
When there are 8 days in a week, and 15 in a fortnight
When children go to the “canteen” at school and are served a full four course meal, with starter, main course, cheese course and dessert
When you look both ways when crossing a one-way street
When you call your paediatrician with a sick child at 8am, he answers the phone himself, and gives you an appointment for 11am that same morning
When the dustbin-men come 5 times a week
When neither adults nor teenagers get drunk at parties or sports events because it’s “unattractive”
When you see groups of police men/women (usually groups of 3) in uniform kissing each other hello/good-bye on the street
When you can use the shrugging of shoulders to explain numerous things!! And “ça va” for everything else
When men’s swim trunks are forbidden at swimming pools
When bare breasts greet you perkily in a 10ft tall soap ad plastered across the metro station walls.
When the bus driver stops the bus, gets out and lights up a cigarette while all the passengers wait patiently inside
When you can’t recognize English words when French people use them
When the toilet in your local cafe resembles a shower stall with two little stands on it for your feet
When you still find a way to get your undies from M&S/Target, no matter what
When your husband’s company doesn’t make the monthly deposit because the accountant was on vacation
When people talk about how British humour is so wonderful…and then you realise that they mean either Benny Hill or Mr. Bean
When perfume is also for men
When you’re told you can have something “right away: 10 days, two weeks at most”
When you are fatter than everyone else, but back in the UK/US you are the skinniest
When meat and fish are being sold outdoors
When you treat your plumber like a king for fear he will drop you as a client
When the driver of the car ahead of you whom you have just given way to out of courtesy, looks at you as though you’re crazy
So, if you are moving to France, be prepared!
Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com