I have been living in France for almost two months now and apart from my accent and general level of French, I have become Frenchified in many ways. HOW, you ask? Have I become a Chanel model? Perhaps I am wearing all black? Maybe I’ve lost loads of weight and smoke all the time?
Erm, well no. But I DO do these things now:
1) I drink fizzy water
FIZZY WATER. The Europeans love them, and it’s always bemused me. And yet, NOW, I hear myself advocating all the benefits of it. “Ohhhh, it’s so good for the skin you know?”, “Oh, it’s just all the minerals you know?”, “It really is better for you.” It is JUST WATER.
2) I am perfectly content with waiting an hour for a meal
French service and French waiters are so slow. Even if I go to McDonalds I will have to wait a lot longer than in England. But you just have to get used to it. My tip is now to go when you’re not hungry, so the food will arrive when you are actually hungry.
3) I push ahead in queues
In England we QUEUE. This is what we are good at, this is what we are orderly at, this is what we have mastered to perfection. In England if someone skips ahead in front of the queue we won’t SAY anything (oh god no, we wouldn’t want a CONFRONTATION, in PUBLIC) but we WILL tut. You just don’t do it. But here – if you go by the methodical British queuing system, you will end up having to wait for the next bus, end up being regulated to the back of a classroom and having the worst seat on the train. Instead, I now PUSH. I know where to stand, I know how to make one of THOSE disrespectful faces when people aren’t doing the same as me, and I end up always having a good place to sit. No one even says anything about it because in France that’s what you DO.
4) I drink Cola Light
IT IS NOT THE SAME AS DIET COKE. But I have had to give in. Drinking Orangina was fine, but wasting calories on drinks is the most depressing thing ever.
5) I use unisex changing rooms
In Britain we really aren’t very good at nudity. Women walk around NAKED in swimming pool changing rooms here. NAKED. In front of MEN. A couple were getting very frisky next to me in the swimming room showers the other day, and I just had to put up with it without making a face. In England I would have pointed at the “no petting” sign.
6) I eat bread without butter
Baguettes WITH butter? Who are you? What are you? I don’t even remember what butter tastes like. Or margarine.
7) I drink alcohol with every meal
Wine with lunch? Why not! Beer in a grungy student cafe at 2pm? Why not! In France though, you don’t get drunk. I’m slowly developing the ability of not letting alcohol affect me whatsoever. This is a very dangerous and reckless ability.
8) I use toilets without lids
What is it with the French and TOILETS? Do they not know what LIDS are? I am so used to the most disgusting and dingy toilets now whenever I see lids I consider it a ‘luxury’. In England they don’t exist. They wouldn’t exist. The place would be closed down within a week.
9) I don’t dress up to go to clubs
Here, when the French go out, they don’t really dress up in England. In England I am used to being surrounded by mini-skirt clad girls, girls in disco pants and crop tops, or a small bodycon dress. In France it’s surprisingly liberating – most girls wear jeans, and so far when I have got ready I feel TOO dressed up.
10) I arrive late to everything
Okay, okay, I may not be the most punctual person in the earth in any case, but in France NO ONE is. If someone wants to meet me at 3pm, I’ll arrive at 3.15pm. If I have a class at 1pm, I’ll arrive at 1.05 and still be ‘on time’. The few occasions where a French lecturer or person has arrived to meet me on time were the biggest shocks to the system.