Hey guys, so we are quickly approaching the 8-month mark… which is SO weird to think about. Time is flying by but then at times feel like it is standing still.
So I had something interesting happen to me yesterday that made me recall my first few weeks in Chambéry and then I began thinking about all the French customs I am still don’t understand or am not used to.
- La bise, the side cheek kisses. Though I do this regularly, especially when I am up north with Family, the physical contact with a complete stranger is odd. Now, this changes from region to region. Sometimes it is one kiss per cheek, sometimes two or three. In some instances, men who meet for the first time will shake hands rather than do les bisous. I have learned though that Hugging is considered a way more intimate action because it is full body contact rather than the Bisous which are just the cheeks that touch and the hand on the arm or shoulder. So… yes still very weird for me… weirder still is now that is generally how Evangeline gives me Kisses.
- Les Grèves or in English, Strikes. They are very VERY common in France in almost every area of society. From teachers to train workers, to the very people who collect the trash. En France, il est le droit de faire grève. Meaning it is a right, protected by the law and their constitution under three very specific circumstances. Right now there is currently a strike being done by the cheminots de la SNCF these are the workers of the trains here in France. SNCF is the major train company that is used every day by millions of people across France but also Europe. Right now they are on strike for up to 3 months… starting just after Easter. Starting on April 3rd there are two days of strike and three days free, that pattern will continue until June, or until they reach an agreement with the government. As a result, it has caused a lot of frustration and created a lot of problems for workers who use the train every day to get to work, or students.
- This has affected me in the regards of the strikes with my daughter’s school, and all schools in that age category. Many times I have had to figure out other arrangements or had to leave class early because of strikes causing the school to be closed at lunch or during the after school hours time that she can stay. Thankfully I made friends with one of her teachers and I can mostly avoid the hassles with that.
- As frustrating as I find it, I understand the cultural reason behind it and I applaud the people of France standing up to their government when they feel their condition are unfair. These strikes do not always work, in fact in seems France is following into a more capitalism, privatization sector of things… which… for the current social structure of France, will be a rude awakening. But they are trying.
- The entire social perception of alcohol is SO weird to me here. Obviously, the drinking age is 18 so that in and of itself is odd. On top of that, the entire… concept of walking around with an alcoholic beverage is not weird…alcohol is very much a large part of French culture and that just starts at a younger age here. My experience in the bar scene is incredibly limited but at least here in Chamery there are Plenty of bars and clubs around and bringing your child into a bar is okay… SO WEIRD.
- Lastly is specifically for women. Men in France have a very different approach to a woman… in my experience… then in the States. For instances… it is not uncommon for me to be stopped walking around running errands or walking home from school. I have been stopped several times by men who use this line…
- Bonjour, Je voulais dire que vous êtes vraiment charment et belle. Est-que vous avez un boire avec moi… thé… café… etc…
- Translation: Hello, I wanted to tell you that you are really charming and beautiful. Would you get a drink with me… tea… coffee.
- And as nice as that seems it is also a bit frustrating, they aren’t cat-calling which is nice. I haven’t been honked at my passing cars here. But literally yesterday I passed a guy and I knew based on the look in his eyes when I saw him in front of me he was going to stop me. He passed me and turned a corner and I did my best to avoid eye contact…. so when I turned around and he wasn’t there… I was super relieved… however… he waited for a few seconds before coming back around the corner and stopping me. Men will stop women while they are walking around… give them their phone numbers… and it is just very…forward… to me. I am not used to men being so bold in that regard. I am sort of dreading the warmer weather now because I am frankly not into being followed or stopped by strange men when I am trying to go about my day. Thankfully they are harmless and usually when you turn them down they go about their days. In these cases… trust your gut… if something feels off, make sure it goes no further than that spot on the street.
- Last but not least is that MOST not all but MOST stores are closed on sundays or do close earlier… those strikes I talked about a bit ago… one of them was for this right to have a Day off during the week. So it is a national thing that most stores are closed. If the store chooses to be open, they can but the propritor must be the one running it… he or she is not allowed to force their employers to work on that day… unless it is special type of store and they have their rules for that. So don’t be surprised if you go to france and find things closed Sundays and Mondays… it is really quite dead… Not a bad thing but just different for me.
Anyway, so there are the things that I still struggle with here in France. My situation is going to be different from someone else, in my case being a single mom makes me more cautious but also puts me into another category of life than others. Strikes in school will not affect a younger person like they affect me and vice versa I cannot give any real point of view on the bar scene other than I know it is WAY more lax than in the States.
Spring has ARRIVED though, the flowers are in Bloom, so enjoy the sun. We haven’t had much… just a lot of rain.