A blog about French culture

With only a couple of weeks left in France before leaving for my last month of adventures before heading home, I thought it would be a good time to write a blog about some of the cultural differences between France and NZ.At first glance, things aren’t so different. The main differences I noticed were school related (obvious since I was working in one). Kids are in school for longer, high schoolers generally have classes from 8/9am to 5pm with some getting a two hour break for lunch. 
Some kids go home for lunch, which is probably there main meal of the day and the rest eat at the school canteen which they pay a small amount per meal. Lunch consists of several courses, like dinner (usually 5 courses).

People in general are not seen snacking and drinking soft drinks in public, they usually eat in the privacy of their own home. They eat their main meal late in the evening, around 9pm.

When you get invited to a dinner party, you can expect a long night of eating and drinking with many courses. Aperitifs and champagne, main course, cheese, dessert, coffee and if you stay for too long, orange juice (that’s the clue to leave).

As for wine drinking, choosing the right wine for a meal is seen as a big responsibility for the person who has to choose.

With eating much later, clubbing happens later too, don’t expect anywhere to be going off until after 2am. Bars and clubs have different hours and bars must be closed at 1am. 

Normal clubbing attire is jeans and a t-shirt. Not many people wear heels. If you dress at all sexily, expect lots of comments, wolf whistling, and glares.

If you’re in a relationship, your man will get extremely jealous of this behaviour. Even chatting with a person of the opposite sex is enough to make him jealous. 

Some other things:

Getting your drivers licence is much more difficult and expensive. You must take many hours of lessons through accredited driving schools. Once you’ve got your licence, insurance for your car is extremely expensive for young people and most have to put their car on their parents insurance.

What do French houses look like? Pretty much all have shutters and are kept shut up quite a lot of the time. Windows are smaller and there isn’t a desire for indoor/outdoor flow. 

Each set of suburban shops also has at least once pharmacy and a boulangerie (bakery).

Shop hours differ all around France. All shops are closed on Sundays except for boulangeries. Some shops are closed over lunch time, but most (including pharmacies) are open until around 7pm. Supermarkets aren’t open much later, the latest ones around 10pm. On Saturdays some services such as banks, doctors offices and pharmacies are open in the morning. On Mondays some shops are closed, mainly services such as banks.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few other things, but hopefully that gives you an idea about life in France.

More on my travels next time,

Amanda xx

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A week of lasts

The last (slightly more than a) week has been a bit of a crazy one! After arriving back into France on my flight into Paris Beauvais I met my parents at their hotel. We had heaps to talk about as we hadn’t spoken for two weeks (we spoke once a week for the last 8 months) and my parents had spent a week of that travelling London and in Paris while I’d been off in the Balkans.

The next day we headed back to Clermont-Ferrand on the train for a couple of days of relaxation and seeing where I live. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the best so we couldn’t go up Puy de Dôme or to Parc Montjuzet. Instead we visited L’Aventure Michelin, a museum about the history of Michelin which is based and founded in Clermont-Ferrand, then we ate at my favourite crêperie, 1513 (named for the year it was built). I also took my parents to the supermarket, the laundromat and to lunch at the cafeteria at school, all interesting experiences for them (they were impressed with all the different courses at the cafeteria – salad, main, bread & cheese and dessert).

Unfortunately for me, Mum and Dad then headed off to Portugal and Spain while I had to finish my last week of teaching. My last week was very light, six hours of classes mostly with me chatting with the students about whatever they liked, also had to supervise a test and help some students record advertisements for fake products they came up with.

Outside of class there was many reasons to celebrate, a week of lasts! The last Tuesday coffee (these became a weekly regular), the last students pub night, the last day of work (which was celebrated with the last visit to Jardin Lecoq and a couple of pints), the last trip to the gym, last visit to the laundromat, last assistants party (including a fun game which was a mixture of taboo and charades, all in French of course). There was also the last annoying French public holiday (NO public transport for the day), there are some things I really won’t miss about France.

For the rest of my time I was doing paper work and running around trying to sort out my leaving, picking up prescriptions, visiting the insurance people, bank, post office, etc. 

On Saturday ASM (the local rugby team), played Toulon in the final of the champions cup. The game was played in London since it was an international competition but in Place Jaude they put up a huge screen and what seemed like the whole town came to watch (estimates suggest there was around 50,000 people there). Everyone was wearing yellow and blue, with flags, horns, smoke bombs and beer in hand. We stood for six hours in the revelry but unfortunately Toulon won the match. Despite this the party continued into the night. The best weekend to be in Clermont-Ferrand and a great send off for me!

Thanks to all the cool people I met during my time in Clermont-Ferrand, I’ve had a great time and am more than a little sad to be leaving. Good luck to everyone!

So where am I off to now? I have about eight weeks travelling around Europe mostly with my parents before I’m heading back to France (but more on that part later). This week I’m making a quick trip to London via Paris before heading to the south of France for a little R&R and to meet up with my parents.

Until next time,

Amanda xx

A French city (finally) and stepping in dog poop

I arrived in Clermont-Ferrand on Sunday night and was picked up from the train station by Olivier, the teacher looking after me at my school. My accommodation is at the school which means it is super convenient and cheap.

On Monday I had a wander around the city on the way to meet up with some other assistants for some pizza. The city is really two towns; Clermont and Montferrand and there are two distinct town centres. My school is in Montferrand which makes it a bit of a journey into the heart of the city which is in Clermont but there is a tram which is really efficient and I will also have the loan of a bike. On this first walk around the city I did it, that thing so many people talk about and recognise about France… I stepped in some dog poop. It really is everywhere and sometimes there is no escaping it.

My school is great, lots of students but the teachers are really friendly and nice. They have given me Fridays off so that I can have a long weekend and do some travelling. I start classes proper on Monday. On Wednesday we had the induction day which was exhausting as it was all in French and trying to understand how complicated things work in a language you are not fluent in is not easy.

Yesterday I got my French bank account so I can now start getting everything organised like a French mobile number, my social security forms (more paper work) etc.

Amanda xx