guest post: what I learned traveling to and living in France

Helllllo! I’m currently somewhere in the air between San Francisco and Paris and so excited to have Catherine kickoff this week of guest blog posts. You might remember her from here and here– she’s kind of a regular around here! Catherine is actually moving back to France in a few weeks and I hope you enjoy her French tidbits below as much as I do. xo!

As someone on the verge of moving to the Rhône-Alpes region for a seven-month language assistantship, I cannot help but reflect on my first trip to France in 2009. A college freshmen still adjusting to university life, I opted out of spring quarter for a three-month language and culture immersion program in Avignon. I’d traveled to Europe and China with student tour groups, but my studies abroad were the first time I actually lived in a foreign land. A wanderlust-stricken journalism and French student, my experiences in France only enhanced my desire to sharpen my language skills in hopes of working overseas one day.

As Andi is undoubtedly having a fabulous time in the City of Lights and Love, I’m thrilled to share tidbits of French style de vie gained from my spring in Provence!

1. Coffee is très petit. In my over-caffeinated opinion, too small. Oh mon Dieu. When I ordered my first cup, I was shocked to receive a mere espresso shot over my usual XL Red Eye. European coffee is excellent, mind you, and also very strong, but even as a seasoned black coffee drinker, I had to add a little sucre or lait on occasion. Tip: Order a café allongé (“long coffee”) if you’re missing a standard American cup o’ joe. Don’t expect to get your order to go, unless you’re ordering from the local MacDo.

2. Parlez-vous anglais? Most French are a far cry from the snooty traveler despisers portrayed on television. The key to charming the Français is attempting to speak French, even if all you can utter is “Bonjour” and “Merci.” Don’t get discouraged. They don’t expect you to be fluent. A little effort, a smile, and a few basic phrases go a long way.

3. Be flexible. Unlike presumed rudeness, I found the French lassiez-faire attitude to be a refreshingly true stereotype. French are very laid-back people who like to savor and enjoy life, leisurely soaking in the beauty of each moment. Expect schedule changes and plan to be “fashionably late.” Aside from public transportation, which normally runs like clockwork, being on time may be an extreme faux pas.

4. Bottled water is cheap, and wine is like water. Someone please explain how we pay over a dollar for one 16-oz. bottle of water in The States. Try 1 Euro wine on for size. Bottled water, usually sold in sizes equivalent to a U.S. liter for .25, is a staple for on-the-go travelers. Wine is paired with dinner, and often lunch, as vin is treated like an essential accessory to the meal. If you’re not already a wino, France will do it to you.

5. It’s prettier than the pictures. Unexplainable, but a picture cannot fully capture the beauty of this, or any, place.

6. The cuisine lives up to the hype. Prepare your taste buds and your wallets, because you’re going to want to savor each morsel of what the gastronomique capital of the world has to serve up. When in France, be adventurous in your eating. Escargot? Pourquoi pas? Save room for dessert. Pastel-colored macarons and budget-friendly staples like gelato and Nutella and banana-filled crepes are worth the splurge!

7. The French have flair. It’s no wonder perfume and fashion’s haute couture originated in Paris. An indiscernible “je ne sais quoi” appears in each aspect of the culture. The French are like everyday artists, adding stylish twists to monotonous daily tasks like the a.m. commute. Parisians zooming down the boulevard atop a vintage bike while stylishly sporting scarf and trench: a regular sight. When in doubt, you can never go wrong with black. France street style: black, black, and more black. Chic and sleek.

8. There is so much more to France than Paris. Paris may be my favorite city I’ve traveled to, but the rest of the country has much to offer! From castles to vineyards, to beaches and mountains, France is a versatile land. Travel off the beaten path to discover la France profonde (“deep France”).

9. Deep down, we’re the same. Whether in France, Australia, Asia, or Africa, embrace your surroundings – the people, the land, and the culture – recognizing, respecting, and learning from said differences. Upside: you’ll find common ground in the most unlikely locations no matter how “lost in translation” you feel. Just smile, be positive, and go!

10. Expect to want to return. Once the travel bug has bitten you, don’t be surprised if you’re booking a return flight or find yourself anxious to discover a new overseas venue.

Thanks for reading. I cannot wait to enjoy Andi’s Paris review!

XX Bisous
Catherine

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One response to “guest post: what I learned traveling to and living in France

  1. I had a hard time getting past your opening because you mention Avignon and oh my goodness, Avignon is so wonderful! Wonderful post – thank you for reminding me that I need to return to France!

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