Okay, not ONLY in France (many are European in general) but here are some of the differences, the oddities, that make France so….French.
I had to get a key cut a few weeks ago. Look at the board of keys. Notice all the skeleton keys? That’s because they are still used in France. All the time. Seriously.
And speaking of keys…even modern keys, well, locks are different. For the three apartments I’ve lived in while in France, you have to turn the key two complete times, it clicks twice, to be properly locked. After a few glasses of wine, I can get confused as I’m convinced we’re locked out of the apartment as I frantically turn it both ways, hearing the clicks but cannot open the door. I don’t even feel stupid (well, not too stupid) when Shmoe takes my hand and turns the key for me. I’m just relieved.
Doors. Doors usually are pushed in France. I always go to pull them (I mean like the door to a restaurant- in Canada it’s almost always a pull). Of course, what happens is my arm jerks as the door slams into the door jam and I look like a moron. Particularly when I simultaneously am stepping forward and hit my head into the door.
That’s only happened once.
That there were witnesses.
Les vacances. When trying to book appointments or get your building manager to fix your electricity, it’s common to hear in summer about les vacances. The holidays. For example, we had a blown fuse and couldn’t find the right switch. Oh, we found switches. We found not one but two fuse boxes. However, none of these flipped the fuse for our place (yes, only one fuse, which is why you cannot run the vacuum and have a light on a the same time. Who knew?). We looked for the manager. Can’t find him but one if the long term neighbors of the complex is ‘in charge’. He can’t find the fuse switch either. Shmoe decides to run a huge extension cord to our place so at least we can have some power. I ask the guy n charge when the manager is coming back. He replies “Les vacances.” Thinking that there’s a language barrier (i.e. I said in wrong in French) I ask
Shmoe to ask him. Again he replies, this time with a Gallic shrug, “Les vacances.” and he leaves. This drives me insane. Guess where the fuse switch was? In a suite down below us and over a few. Yeah.
Also, loads of businesses are closed for weeks, a month or even longer in the summer, for holidays, especially in August. There’s an expression of whether you’re a ‘July or August’, based on when you go on holiday.
Cars don’t have cup holders.
Electricity is expensive. Fridges are small. Ice is like gold and you usually have to ask for it.
Air conditioning is practically non-existent. Even in plus thirty degree heat. Women (and a few men) actually carry and use fans. Karl Lagerfields fan is not only an affectation, it’s also practical.
Bathrooms. Sigh. Out in the ‘burbs here, I’ve been to several small brasseries, they’re like your local pub a home. Small, not schmancy but nice. The bathrooms are all Turkish. Seriously. In public, there’s either a single toilet (like on the streets) which is sometimes Turkish or the group bathrooms in the mall. Men and women use the same facilities, there’s no ‘Ladies’. And you pay to use both of them. In homes, the toilet and the sink are in separate rooms.
Women’s products, like make-up, are outrageously expensive compared to home. Even for things like conditioner. Even ones made in France. French women pay through the nose to look fabulous.
The big sales are only twice a year in stores, as it’s regulated by the government. Only in January and July.
Boobs are everywhere. On the t.v., movies, adverts, everywhere. And the ideal French breast? No more than a champagne glass. (not a flute but a glass, think of the ‘fifties and before)
Yes, the beaches are nude.
Anything to do with the government, or any unionized organization (so most of France), like the trains, is going to require every piece of ID you’ve been given since birth, paperwork from you, your neighbor and every employer you’ve ever had, it will take four times as long as you think it should, then they will charge you fifty euro and tell you that you’re still missing two forms and to come back three weeks from Tuesday. Which will cost you another fifty euro. Oh, and you’re not an EU citizen? Well, that will be four more forms, another hundred euro and you need to be in that line over there. But she’s busy, on her lunch break. Come back tomorrow, wait four hours and then we will tell you you can make an appointment for next month.
There’s are hundreds of great things about France that are unique, landmarks, museums and it’s history. I enjoy France, the people, the customs and the culture. But sometimes, it’s difficult to live here and sometimes…it’s just odd!