What a lovely weekend we had. We celebrated Oscars 15th birthday. We attended a King Cake celebration. And we had friends over for a jam session. Then, Ralph and Maude caught the early train to Paris this morning so they could fly back to California the next semester starts on Monday. Im glad their last weekend was an especially good one. (I shared snippets from the weekend on Instagram stories I believe you can still see them even if you dont have an Instagram account.)
Time is flying! This week marks four and a half months of our family being back in France. So I thought it might be fun to share a few observations about French life that are different than our California life.
-As you get to know Europeans from lots of different countries, its interesting to learn there are some countries where English is spoken as a second language quite fluently, and others where its less common even though everyone learns English in school. We were told that for countries where English isnt spoken as fluently, one of the reasons is because movies and television are generally dubbed in the native language of the country.
This is true for France. No matter where the movie/television show is made, instead of subtitles, the original actor or actresses voice will be replaced with a French-speaking voice. The lip movements dont line up perfectly, but they seem to prefer that to subtitles. It also means that when you think of famous Hollywood actors and actresses in movies, those voices that might be very familiar to you, arent used.
In bigger towns and cities, youll see some movies listed as Version Originale this means they are in the original language and have French subtitles. So for example, when we saw Little Women, the theater had 3 showings that day dubbed in French, and 1 showing in Version Originale.
Weve been told that in countries where English is spoken more fluently, the Hollywood TV shows and movies have subtitles instead of dubbing. (So if youre wanting to learn a new language, watching lots of shows in the target language cant hurt!)
-The strike has been going on for a month now. At first people were talking about it quite a bit, but I havent heard much chatter lately. This is probably because my French is still quite poor so Im probably not hearing the discussions that are happening.
-Related, our French friends have told us everyone is unhappy with President Macron. But they are also quick to downplay the dissatisfaction and say that its tradition in France to hate the current president, no matter who it is, and to speak fondly of the most recent past president.
-Public bathroom stalls are significantly more private in France. The stall walls and door extend all the way to the ceiling and floor.
Theres no knocking on the stall next to yours to ask for TP in an emergency they would have no way to hand it to you. : )
-The French drink far less water than Americans. This is true at meals, and throughout the day. At a restaurant youll typically have a small water glass and it wont be refilled unless you ask.
Related, schools, museums, and other public buildings have no drinking fountains. The only place Ive seen drinking fountains here are at the American Military museums.
Also related, the French dont carry water bottles or coffee cups. The drinks-to-go-culture just doesnt exist in much of France. Youll see some portable coffee cups in Paris (they have Starbucks of course), but I have seen is zero times here in Normandy. Its just not a thing.
I mean, they do drink tea or coffee or water, but they do it at specific designated meal/eating times. And dont eat or drink at any other times.
-Automated car washes are plentiful in every French town Ive seen, but you dont stay in the car for the car wash. You park the car, get out, and wait by the side while machine moves around your car.
-Even though we share an alphabet, our keyboards our set up a bit differently. Instead of QWERTY, they refer to AZERTY.
-Another thing that might not occur to you unless you live outside the U.S.: 911 is not a universal emergency number. In France the general one is X, or there are specific ones too:
-This morning, a truck came by to refill our heating fuel tank with oil. The big tank sits in the unfinished basement. The oil heats the radiators one in each room. After a tank refill, you have to leave the radiators off for three hours. This worked the same way when we lived in the countryside as well. In the house that we bought, it has radiators, but not a fuel tank. Instead it has whats called gaz de ville meaning it has access to the city gas lines. So we wont need to order refills there and will just get a monthly gas bill instead.
Appointments to get the oil tank filled are usually several days out. So if you forget to order and run out of oil, you may be cold for a few days! As you would expect, we fill the oil about once a month in the cold months, and then hardly at all in the warm months.
-In France and throughout Europe, they use 220 volt electricity instead of the 110 volt electricity used in the U.S.. Its fascinating to see which of our U.S. electrical products work, and which ones dont. Anything tech-y works laptops, iPad, Alexa, and TV all work. Our Dyson vacuum works. Zero kitchen appliances work not the toaster, the blender, the electric kettle. The iron doesnt work either. You know what else works? All of our plug in lamps.
-Though there are shops for getting your hair done everywhere, mani-pedi shops are much harder to find. And unless youre in a big city, there are no drop-in options. You must make an appointment ahead of time. But so many women I know sport gorgeous nails, so I think they must be very good at doing at-home manicures.
-French use stick shift; take pride. Maybe like Americans resisting metric system even though its easier.
-One of the tricky things about living in a smaller town is that if something breaks down on a Friday afternoon, youre stuck for the weekend. Our hot water heater went out on a Friday and theres was nothing we could do until Monday. We did attempt to call severals plumbers, but either we wouldnt get an answer because they were closed for the weekend, or we did get an answer but they couldnt come till Monday or Tuesday. To make due, we would heat water on the stove and in the kettle for washing dishes and taking sponge baths. Hah!
-One of my only negatives about living here in Normandy is the giant spiders. In Oakland, our house was surrounded by trees and there were constantly spiders and webs all over the place. But they were generally the daddy-long-leg types and they didnt bother me. Here, they are huge and gross and terrifying to me. Happily, they arent around in the cold weather!
I think thats it for now. I hope you enjoy these little tidbits. Is there anything on this list that would be a deal breaker for you? Anything you feel you would prefer to how it works where you live currently? And do you have any questions or topics I should consider for my next observation post? Feel free to comment!