Saturday, November 21, 2009

France: Where Students Kiss Teachers and Wine is Served in High School Cafeterias

Interesting French Cultural Tidbits

  • You know how in French movies, everyone kissed each other on each cheek whenever they feel like it? I used to think that was just a silly stereotype. And then I moved to France. Not only does this kissing thing happen, it happens a lot, and it happens at sometimes odd, inappropriate times. For example, I tutor two high school boys, both of whom kiss me once on each cheek when I arrive and when I leave. This is obviously an inherited trait, as their parents also partake of this interesting custom, so much so that I feel a little dizzy with all the kissing I have to do in the space of only 1 hour. Since most men don't kiss each other (though one of the boys occasionally does kiss Andrew) Andrew doesn't have to worry about this so much. Which is a little insulting really; men don't kiss men, but women are expected to allow both men and women kiss them? I'm not really all that bothered by it, because I believe in following another culture's customs when I'm living in their country, but it does make me a little uncomfortable.
  • The French don't really seem to have a concept of "personal space" either. They like to sit or stand very close to someone when they are having a conversation, even if there's plenty of room in the room to spread out a little.
  • Not only is free wine offered at lunch time in the teacher's room, but at the high school students who are "of age" (not sure what that age is exactly, but I think 16) can have a bottle of wine or hard cider with their lunch. I'm curious to know if this courtesy extends to other professions, such as law enforcement and transportation. Then again, maybe I don't want to know. However, despite this shameless imbibing, the French seem very concerned with preventing drunk driving. Several times when dining with the French, he/she has remarked that they could only have one glass of wine because they were going to be driving afterwards. And as far as I know, their drunk-driving record isn't as high as ours.
  • With every food advertisement, whether it be a billboard, a menu in a fast-food restaurant, or the packaging that your food comes in, there's a warning label, similar to the ones on cigarette packages, that warns the consumer not to each too much, and to "manger et bouger," or "eat and exercise." Andrew and I have not been paying attention to that so much, but I do feel guilty when the warning label is staring me right in the face.
  • People love Twilight, Dr. House, Desperate Housewives, and Prison Break.
  • Bags are not free in supermarkets! This is a custom we should absolutely adopt in America. Plastic is such a waste, and if you had to pay for every bag you took, wouldn't you be more likely to re-use or buy cloth bags? The downside is remembering to bring your bags when you go to the store.
Tomorrow we're going to Chambord and Cheverny, two very pretty castles in the Loire Valley. We're renting a car and going with two other friends. It should be fun! I'll post photos later this week after Andrew's birthday.

1 comment:

  1. oh i am just catching up with all your stories! sigh. i literally go into this happy place when i read these and know you're living these experiences daily! so happy for you both. hugs from LA