Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, French food, Stereotypes /

I have had a full-on year. Come to think of it, I have a full-on life. It just never stops. But right now I have taken the whole family to a hamlet in Provence. The Internet connection –when it works- is patchy, which means that I am enjoying a much-needed break.

I love it here. The light is nothing short of spectacular, the colours are perfect, and I am pleased to report that my daughters are finally starting to enjoy Provence. The problem is, well, me.

What am I talking about? Well, I am suffering from a bad case of reverse culture shock. Why? Well, where to start? The driving of my fellow Frenchmen is terrible (simply put, speed limits are never respected. I wonder if they are for the birds?). As for customer service, well, it seems that nobody knows what it is. I asked for a glass of water at a local coffee, and of course it never came. Not to mention that I got told off because the waitress had forgotten half of our order. “No, you didn’t tell me.”, she said. Of course it was my fault. Since when is it allowed to be aggressive towards customers?

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It’s little things really, but it all adds up, and I can’t help feeling a bit negative. For instance, the hotel driver insisted on being paid cash, there and then; he didn’t want me to put the fare on the hotel bill, as had been agreed at the booking, which was a pain as I didn’t have much cash on me. At the hotel in Nice, I had asked for a late checkout –which I was told was fine-, and no less than three persons entered the room despite the ‘do not disturb’ sign while we were still packing up. Welcome to France! Simply put, it’s a different world out there. I just have to get on with things, I suppose. Maybe I have had it too good in London?

On the bright side, the freshness of the food over here never ceases to amaze me. You should see all the different tomatoes at the local supermarkets. And I must admit that I had forgotten what a yogurt aisle was. My daughters are having a Danette at every possible opportunity (Danette is a French chocolate pudding. It is made of milk –they say!-, which means that it is supposed to be healthy but tastes like a massive treat). I am pleased that they can enjoy the taste of my childhood.

I wake up early every day for a little jog, and there are quite a few people running too. I had a little chat with a couple of them, which would never happen in London. That said, most of the runners speak English after 9 am, and I don’t understand why they seem to enjoy running in the blazing sun. Maybe I am still more French than I think. Go figure.

In short, I am having a good time, but I don’t really know where I belong. Any advice for me?

 

  • James Casserly Omaexlibris

    I can empathise with how you feel. It sometimes feels you are adrift and don’t know where you belong. When you grow up somewhere and then move away, it’s easy to idealise your home and forget the bad points. When you have settled away and then return home for a visit, life has moved on without you and all the little faults you forgot about are there. Perhaps the waitress was rude because she thought you were English? And there is the irony, at home in London, you are “The French lady”, now in France some would probably think you are “The English lady”. And somewhere between the two is you.