I think it is naturally after a little over a month in a different world to begin to really liking and disliking certain things in comparison to what is familiar back home. So I made a list! Well, really I made two. Specifically I have noticed things from France that would be wonderful to have in the U.S. and I have noticed things that are in American that France for its own sake should look into taking on. Almost every one of these things I wasn't expecting coming here and might be interesting to you. I've added hopefully delightful commentary as many of the things on these lists need explanation to be made clear.
10 things in France I wish existed in the U.S.
1) Boulangeries, patisseries, cafes, chocolateries EVERYWHERE. It is a magical scene passing them by on the streets for both the aesthetics and odors. Oh, dear, our obesity epidemic would probably go through the roof though…
2) Standard two-hour lunches (not like college students get those everyday though). I think enough is said right there. You all have jammed-packed and stressful days. You know what I mean.
3) Chevre, Brie, Camembert, etc. all being easily and more cheaply available. Cheese will never be the same for me again. I’m spoiled.
4) Dinners that regularly come in courses. Whether casual or formal every time to eat is something special. A starter is followed by the main dish and is followed by cheese and is finally followed by dessert every single night. America, land of the one-plate dinners, listen and maybe shake things up every one in awhile. I know I will when I get home! (Mom, Dad, and friends have been warned now.)
5) Menu Formulas at restaurants. They’re simple. They’re (usually) a good deal and you get to be served course by course which is just elegant for me coming from my background. I could do this every night if I could afford it.
6) Open air markets almost every day of the week and throughout the entire year. Yes, we have farmer’s markets but I see potential with the current organic and local movement for expansion. It is such a pleasurable experience carefully selecting and tasting fruit and cheese in partnership with the person who had an actually hand the creation of the product.
7) More Middle Eastern and African immigrants because that means the best Middle Eastern and African food I’ve ever eaten. In another blog I will have to explain that a “kebap” is but just trust me when I say a well-chosen kebap can mean the best, cheapest meal you’ll every have in France
8) More specialty shops being widely available. The independently own business still is going on here and I’m trying to take advantage of sales clerks who will always expertly know their products
9) Reasonable food portions. With the rare exception, the food portions in France are what they once were in the U.S. when my parents were growing up. It makes me feel better with every fatty and buttery thing I eat
10) The tradition of bringing a small gift like flowers, chocolate, or wine when visiting with friends and family. It is just incredibly thoughtful and seems a mystery to me why we don’t do that as well in the U.S.
11) I’m just going to also add French coffee which is some of the strongest, most robust stuff I’ve ever had and I think when I come back state side it will have to be an espresso or nothing in the morning because that is the closest we’ve got to a regular French cup of joe.
10 things in the U.S. I wish existed in France
1) Commercially alive Sundays! Darn it, people it is still the weekend and, guess what, I want to go out to a place that isn’t a chateau, museum, or market sometimes! In fact, I’d love to go shopping. I don’t care if it is a boutique or the mall. There are times I’d like to fulfill the female stereotype and just try on shoes all freaking afternoon! (And I’d like to get there with bus lines that aren’t shut down…)
2) Quality peanut butter. It is one thing to sigh and say, “Ouais, un chose très amèricain.” and meaning "Oh, that is such an American thing." *sigh* It is a totally different thing to do that AND try to sell this cheap disgusting stuff they call “peanut butter” in a way overpriced jar. Buck up and sell the good stuff like Jif if you’re going to be all snobby like that about it.
3) An embrace of sandwiches that don’t always have to have butter and/or mayo on them (yes, I mean it when I say “and”). There is a fat and carb concentration there that even my ironclad stomach can't handle let alone my colon.
4) An embrace of cereals as not being kid food. I just got my first care package from my parents and in it my dad sent me a box of Grape Nuts which I’ve yet to find over here. The Peaud’s just shook their heads and said that in France, cereal is a childhood thing! Grape Nuts is suddenly the equivalent to Lucky Charms or something? This morning at least when I opened the box finally, Monsieur was surprised to realize that, gasp, Grape Nuts have no sugar in them and it is made almost completely of BARLEY! He remains steadfast in his opinion though. I don’t care. I have my precious Grape Nuts.
5) An embrace on healthy eating in general like something as simple as using mustard instead of mayo in a sandwich. They have really, really good mustard over here, too. What I would give for a French vendor to hand me a sandwich slathered with hot and spicy Dijon mustard inside! I am going to sat again that I have never had such a high fat and carb content in my diet ever before. Thankfully, something they do have going on here is portion control (see previous list).
More reusable water bottles and other recession-friendly and green habits. I just went on an epic journey yesterday to find a reusable water bottle over here. I finally found a small but decent selection over at a sports store called Decathlon. It is a giant (1 liter!) but she’s a pretty white thing with soft and flowery print on her and I love it for that and the fact that I don’t have to constantly buy plastic water bottles like it is the beginning of the millennium when that first took off. I love doing what is ecological (and cheap).
6) Teachers who inform you of your faults in homework but don’t announce it in a loud voice in front of the entire class. This was the biggest culture shock I think for the other Americans and me. Yes, be honest. We’re not babies but must you announce it from the front of the class in great detail? I have now learned that this is a common practice among French teachers and have adapted fairly well to it as at least they announce the faults of everyone in the class. Maybe the advantage is that we can all be failures together?
7) Patriotism. It is almost nonexistent here. The French seem to care a lot about being culturally French but say “bof” to being politically French. The regional elections are coming up (that is like our state elections back home) and NOBODY CARES. In my socio-cultural class, the teacher explained that voter numbers are notoriously low and simply it is not a priority of the French to be particular about who is representing them in Paris. It is also a great controversy here whether they should bring the French flag back into public school classrooms or not. It makes me feel like a hard-core patriot in comparison and maybe I’m a hard-core patriot period (thank you, father). I have respect for our armed forces. I give my father the evil eye if he forgets to put up the flag. On the Fourth of July I’m one of those annoying people on Election Day who ask, “Did ya vote, yet? Well? If not, just know its whoever the new guy’s going to be who’s making the decisions about your life now! I hope you prefer *insert random party here*’s ideals!” etc. etc.
8) Clean bathrooms for students. I’m being serious when I say I trust a music festival’s port-a-potties as much as I trust the things they call toilets for students in France. They are barely maintained. There’s toilet paper strewn everywhere and some don’t even have those rims so one can sit properly. They should just save money and give us holes in the floor. It would be as well and probably more sanitary. What’s worse, Madame says students have bathroom like that from elementary on up. Scary.
9) Adaptation of fast-food restaurants that are not McDonalds. Really, they have several options from us, but they choose the one with the most infamous reputation in America. They have apparently never heard of “Super Size Me.” Though in McDonald’s defense, they have apparently cleaned up their act a little since then.
10) Not so many taxes. Forget currency exchange it is the tax included in everything from the restaurant to the boutique that kills my wallet. But thankfully I don't have to worry about oening a TV here yet as there is even a tax to have the right to own a TV. I might never complain about American taxes again. I put the "might" in there if I'm going to be honest though.
Tomorrow (just before midnight for you American night owls), I'll be going to Amboise but will be back in Angers by mid afternoon. I just want to get to that chateau already and I'm determined to do it. Also for this weekend, I'll be making chili for my host family on Sunday. I'll be starting them off on the super, super basic meat-n-beans type of chili and cornbread. Later I hope to be able to cook white chili to which at least I'm really looking forward.
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