My son and I are leaving our small town in southeastern United States to live for a year in a small town in southeastern France. It couldn't possibly be THAT different, right?

Monday, September 12, 2011

We're not in Spartanburg anymore!

My colleague in Narbonne inspired me with her list of things that she likes the most about living in France so I thought that I would adapt that a bit.  Since I'm not quite as positive as she is, I will call this list "How I know that we're not in Spartanburg anymore."  Some of these are Jed's observations.

1.  There are not many public restrooms, and typically, when you do find one, you have to pay to use it.  The grocery stores do not have them, and something about shopping for groceries ALWAYS makes Jed have to pee so we have to cut our trip short.  I have already had to let him pee behind a trash can in downtown Montélimar.  I hope that's not against the law!

2.  Speaking of grocery stores, you have to pay to use a shopping cart, and you have to bring your own bags and bag your own groceries.  I am not opposed to any of these ideas.  I just forget my bags at least half the time that I go so I now own lots of bags with the store logo.

3.  The grocery store is a magical place of discovery.  I could spend an hour in the yogurt section alone.  I have never seen so many different types of yogurt!  And we buy our bottled milk unrefrigerated.  Can someone explain that to me?  It is in the section with the bottled water, and we buy a case of it and keep it in our cupboard until we open it.

4.  I used to pay someone to make me exercise.  I have done Zumba, boot camp with Clyde, Jazzercise... You name it, I've probably given it a try.  Now I get my exercise by walking into town several times a week and walking across the street to the grocery store every other day and then lugging my grocery bags up four flights of stairs to the apartment.

5.  It's hot here, people, and NOTHING is air conditioned!  I sleep with the fan inches from my head, and I teach twenty-six squirmy bodies crammed into a small classroom six times on Mondays.  Fall weather cannot come soon enough for me.

6.  We do not have a dishwasher or a clothes dryer in our apartment, and I could not care less.  I no longer see a need for either appliance.

7.  There is this driving rule called "priorité à droite" that I do not quite understand.  I think that drivers on the right always have the right of way, but I'm not sure.  At the moment, it does not matter too much to me because I drive so slowly that it is easy to avoid an accident.  If I ever get up the courage to drive above 50 MPH, I'll need to figure out that rule, for sure.

8.  I love the rond-points or roundabouts.  The traffic seems to flow much better here without so many intersections.

9.  People talk softly in public.  You can be seated inches from a couple in a café and never hear their conversation.  Needless to say, we are the loudest people in town.

10.  Almost everyone has a cooler cell phone than I do----even senior citizens.

11.  Young men wear capri pants and carry purses (although I'm sure that they call them something much more macho), and they are more fashionable than I am.  I have my British genes to thank for that, I guess.

12.  Most businesses close from 12:00-2:00.  Restaurants are open, of course, but grocery stores are closed.  If you're out of toilet paper or milk, you had better not sleep in!

13.  A lot of things are more expensive than at home, but you can buy a jar of Nutella the size of Jed's head for about $5.00.  (See below.)

14.  Recycling seems to be much more a part of the culture here than in Spartanburg.  It is very convenient and easy to recycle almost everything.

15.  Despite huge warnings on the packages stating " Fumer tue"  (Smoking Kills), I see a lot more people smoking here than I do at home.  I am still taken aback by teenagers standing in front of the high school smoking.   That is SO 1970's USA.

I'll probably add to this list as the year progresses.  It is fun to notice the things that make people and cultures different, but it is also fun to see the ways that we are all the same.  I hope to comment on both so that Jed and I never forget this amazing experience.


  1. There's a French student who lives across the hall from me and we noticed that he had left his milk out. He insisted that it was perfectly okay to leave milk out as long as it was unopened. I had never heard of such a thing before.

    I love reading these posts. :)

  2. I remember seeing the cropped pants/capri pants a lot on men last time I was in Europe. My friend and I jokingly called them "manpris" but I'm sure they wouldn't like that.