Little Funny Things about Life Among the French

As of today, I’ve been here two months. What a crazy two months it’s been too! Wow! I have this week off for vacation. Yay! So, I’m enjoying not doing too much other than getting caught up on stuff though I may take a day trip here and there.

Here’s my next installment of ongoing impressions and observations from life among the French.

(1) BYOB as in….Bring Your Own Bag.

100_1608If you’ve shopped at Aldi in the U.S., you’ve probably already had experience with this. I’m not completely opposed to the idea of bringing your own bags, but it does make for a bit of a marathon at check out. You quickly unload all of your stuff onto the conveyor belt, and then you run (read “speed walk”) to the other end as it’s coming down the little ramp next to the the cash register and start trying to bag your groceries as quickly and efficiently as possible. Then, time’s up when the cashier tells you your total. I’m usually juggling putting stuff in the bag while counting out the needed amount of cash. Sometimes the cashier has had pity on me and has helped, but I am becoming more efficient at this “presentation of, paying for, and bagging up” process of getting groceries. I’ll be a pro by the time I get back to the States! Though the only place this is really a needed skill is at Aldi. If you forget to bring a bag, some small stores will give you a small plastic bag which usually includes some sort of admonition written on it to the effect of “Think of the planet and remember to bring a reusable bag, Moron”. Not those words exactly, but that’s pretty much the gist. Seeing that I reuse those plastic bags quite a bit anyway, I don’t feel guilty about it at all. The bigger stores will require you to buy a bag unless you’re willing to carry your purchases yourself. I don’t mind it too much since these reusable bags are more sturdy and easier to clean than the fabric ones I’ve seen used in the U.S. I just hate having to remember to bring them. The social security/health insurance people were kind to give me a bag. This was probably more of a “forgive us, but it’s going to take forever to process everything” sort of consolation gift, but it is a nice bag. Free advertising if I ever saw it, but I do like the Velcro on the inside of it.

(2) A separated bathroom

French bathroomIn France though maybe it is a European thing (I need to travel more to investigate) the toilet is in its own separate room away from the sink and the bath/shower. This seems rather foreign to the American mind and yes, even not as hygienic, since one is more inclined not to wash one’s hands after doing one’s business because one has to walk over to the other end of the apartment to find the soap and water. Though the French disagree in saying that it is better to keep all the germs from the toilet in a room by themselves with the toilet. They may have a point there since I’ve read that you should never have your toothbrush sitting on a counter anywhere near a toilet due to the germs that are floating around in the air after the toilet is flushed. In any case, these two photos are examples of what it looks like in the apartment where I live. I’m sure, you didn’t quite come to this blog looking for details on such an “interesting topic”, but it is definitely a big difference for an American living among the French. By the way, I love Caroline’s choice in shower curtain. It makes shower time much more cheerful and bright. Just don’t tell that to the pre-coffee Stacey who’s usually wishing there was a switch to turn off all that colorful stimulation early in the morning. 😉

(3) Poles, poles, poles everywhere!

100_1616I have to get used to this every time I return to Europe. You have to pay attention because sometimes these poles are marking where the sidewalk is, where it ends, and sometimes where there is a street crossing the sidewalks. I nearly got hit a couple of times after first arriving as it is not always clearly marked on the smaller streets. To me, the poles seem a tad excessive sometimes. Nearly like we’re cattle being herded in particular direction by the all-knowing higher-ups who placed them there. This particular pole pictured above is just one by itself alerting the person walking that there are trams coming in either direction. Usually, if you look down a street, there are lines of poles on either side of the street. The style of the poles vary too. Sometimes they look like stumps, gates, upside down bowls, white barrels, clowns (not really). etc.

100_1610

Though come to think of it, I think Purdue just installed an iron fence along Northwestern in front of the engineering buildings. I suppose, it’s somewhat similar to that.

(4) No dryers.

100_1571“Bring out…..the rack!” That’s the quote from the Monty Python skit which always comes to mind when it’s time to wash clothes. Today being an exception, I seem to always choose days that are rainy to wash clothes which makes it harder to dry them. I’ve been told that the French in general don’t have clothes dryers because it is considered a waste of energy. I really do miss the convenience and the comfort of having fresh out of the dryer clothes. There are some people who do have dryers, just not the vast majority. If you go to a laundry mat here, you’ll also see these big contraptions that you could literally climb in, and if you’re short enough, maybe even stand in which will dry your clothes. I’ve also been rather amused that the washer machine itself on top of taking about two hours or more to wash a load of clothes, sounds like it’s about to lift off and go into orbit when it’s in its wringing cycle. “Transport of Stacey’s unmentionables to the moon in 3…2….1….”

(5) Tex-Mex? Really, France?

100_1638I’ve been rather amused to experience what seems to be a fascination for Texas and “Mexican food”. Believe me, I get much more of a reaction from saying that I’m from Texas than from saying that I live in Indiana. “Texas!? Tu as des cowboys et des lassos???” are some of the most frequent questions I get. Actually, one of the international sections in a store included “Tex-Mex” instead of the typical U.S. stuff I would have expected. I don’t get it though. “Old El Paso” is not that great of a brand in the Texan’s mind if you’re wanting to experience the “vrai” Tex-Mex. But then, making one’s own taco powder isn’t easy either as finding chili powder that has a kick to it is a little bit more of a challenge than I was counting on it being. Seeing a Tex-Mex restaurant on the other side of the river had me laughing thinking of how profitable it might be for someone to actually try to open an authentic Mexican restaurant here. In reality, it would probably be difficult to find the necessary ingredients, so perhaps it wouldn’t be as profitable. I’m also not sure if the French would be as enamored with the real stuff. I mean, we probably mix ingredients and cook things in such a way that might be detrimental to the French idea of “haute cuisine”. I could be wrong. I mean, you should see how packed McDonald’s can be here which means that at least a portion of the population is willing to lower their standards for a meal here and there at least.

There was one thing they got right though in this store. I walked just a little past the “Old El Paso” section and saw what is the favorite drink of most Texans:

100_1636

A little on the expensive side with it being over a euro per can, but it was sitting there all the same. Personally, I don’t drink carbonated anything anymore, but it was comforting to see this. It felt sort of like a little wave and howdy-do from home. Now, I wonder how the French would react to a Dublin Dr. Pepper? 😉

The next installments in this topic will include more little things that I find rather amusing, interesting, fascinating, or just plain strange in my continuing adventures. Stay tuned!

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