Friday, July 21, 2017

A Few Surprising Facts About France

It's hard to believe we've been in France for nearly three weeks, but here we are! Still no cable or wifi in our apartment (nor a working shower or bathtub, but that's a post for another day), but it's such a beautiful place that we don't mind too much. And mobile data here is virtually free, which is how I'm writing this post! So I'll have a lot more to share in coming days and weeks - especially now that we can drive. But for now, here are a couple of things that I really, really wasn't expecting. I'm sure there will be more where these came from!

1. Portions are enormous
You know how everyone says that American portion sizes are too big, and we need to eat more like the French? Well, they're half right. Eating like the French, at least the bit we're experiencing, means having a tiny breakfast, no snacks, then an enormous lunch and dinner. Most meals include a starter, entree, side dish, and a salad. Bread comes to the table with the main dish - but no butter or oil. Dessert is always offered, and often indulged in with an espresso - which also comes with sugar cubes and a tiny cookie of some sort. And the sizes of the plates are unbelievable! We almost always have food leftover, which we can only bring home thanks to a 2013 law that requires restaurants to provide doggie bags.

2. So. Much. Sugar.
You try telling my kids that they can't have a lollipop. Or an ├ęclair, or a pain au chocolat, or a lemonade with lunch. Even when I do tell them that, 8/10 times the server or shop attendant will give them a little sweet for free anyway. Every cereal in the grocery stores is half sugar, and "all-fruit" jam is not a thing that exists on this side of the Atlantic. Sugar for DAYS.

3. Tout le monde vous aide.
Everyone wants to help you. If you're making an effort with the language, the people around you will appreciate it and will try to communicate. I've had strangers on the bus walk me to a museum, then point me to a better one around the corner that is more geared to kids. Shopkeepers slow down and listen to me, and find a way to ask me a question such that I'll understand and be able to answer. The myth of the rude French person must have been invented by some very unlucky travelers! Of course, I am also an average-looking, able-bodied white person with adorable children, so most people assume I am harmless and deserving of assistance.

Seriously, I have windows the size of a Volkswagen with no screens, no bars, nothing. Road work with heavy machinery is done exactly adjacent to the sidewalk - it almost seems silly that the workers are wearing hardhats, given that those of us three inches away on the sidewalk don't have them! My kids, I have learned, have no survival instinct whatsoever. I'm hoping that will change with time.

5. The smoking
I know, I knew this coming in, but it still surprises me how ubiquitous the smoking is. And it kinda makes me want to start up. I won't! But it's very attractive.

6. Expats will save you
Last time I moved overseas, I had the benefit of enlisted Navy families serving as our sponsors and helpers. Here we have the same thing, except that people volunteer and just fill those roles without being asked. I wouldn't be anywhere near this calm if not for well-timed assistance from a bunch of different people. Thank goodness.

7. Everything tastes incredible
Ok, this one's not a surprise. :) But it's true - everything tastes so great. We have a farmer's market three days a week, five minutes' walk from home, and the produce is unbelievable. I could eat a peach three times a day!

That's all for today. I'll get back into the swing of this blog plan soon! A bient├┤t et au revoir!


Ashley said...

I understand the missing smoking! It's easier to not miss it here because it's just gross and people do it in their car and the smell. But I miss sitting out and having a cuppa and smoke sometimes. Something nice to do with your hands. And how many great conversations begin with "Excuse me, do you have a light?"

EmilySullins said...

Pardonnez-moi, est-ce que vous avez une allumette? :) I never did smoke regularly, but it's awfully appealing here.

Anonymous said...

Emily, I know I am just going to love following your journey "in the old world"! Thanks for taking the time to share! Love your new place too! Hugs to everyone!!

EmilySullins said...

Hugs back at ya. :) If I start slacking on the blog, please remind me! I know I'll regret it if I don't keep a record of this adventure.

Melanie said...

Love the blog! Love your humor :) So glad you've found friendly, helpful people to make things easier. Your kids are lucky to have you to save them from the hazards. And thank you for promising not to smoke! Stick to the peaches and good food!!