Amiee SttWe have been in France for almost two weeks now and although it still feels like a holiday for me and Eliza, Chris has been working hard and is doing better at work than he was in the UK. Is this because of the calming French countryside? Or the fact that France is an hour ahead of England so he is technically starting work an hour later? Probably because Chris is trying hard to prove to his boss that this travelling is going to work! Whatever it is, it is going well, and we are all happy. I thought now would be a good time to write down the things we have noticed about France before they became the norm.
On our first trip to the local supermarket we have noticed that fresh milk is hard to find, but they have UHT milk galore? After a quick Google it turns out 95% of milk sold here is UHT. This seems totally at odds with everything else we know about french food culture -outside of milk they’re obsessed getting only the best and only the freshest. But we’ve jumped in the UHT boat now and it’s not too bad! The meat here is especially good, it even looks healthier than meat back home. That being said you will also seen horse brain, cow heart, pig trotter, cow intestine and cow tongue in your local supermarket. We will not be trying those.
During our second week here we ventured further afield to a bigger supermarket called ‘Auchan’ in Saint-Quentin. Chris’ eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw the selection of cheese and cured meat here. We decided we need to try some, so he picked a few and we have a ‘ Wine and Cheese’ night planned for this weekend coming. Good wine is insanely cheap, literally cheaper than fresh juice – and it tastes incredible. Obviously being on a budget we thought the sensible thing to do was substitute the awfully expensive fresh juice for as much wine as possible!
The children here are so well-behaved and very polite. Each one we have passed in the village have said a very formal ‘Bonjour madame/Monsieur’ almost robotic. French parents are strict, and a quick Google tells me the schools are too. We witnessed a French parent excercising very unpleasant means of punishment in a restaurent we visted this week. Chris and I were the only people who appeared to be shocked though!
One of the interesting quirks here in Northern France has been that outside of the city, people seem to build their houses, not buy them. This means the houses are very different from each other, many styles, many shapes. Even in town this is apparent as there were more house building companies than agencies selling or letting.
Another good thing to note about France is just how wrapped up in French culture it is. Ok I know that sounds silly, but I hadn’t realised how ‘American’ England had become until I came here. The French have held on to their long-standing traditions, such as lunch time closing – all shops including the post office and pharmacy close 12-2 every day so their staff can focus on having a good meal. France even has a government department dedicated to protecting French-ness. They stop the use of foreign words, celebrations and anything that could erode French culture. I imagine this might actually be quite annoying to progressive French people but it has preserved a country that feels very different to the UK despite being so close.
On that note you should know that speaking French gets you a long way. It’s a common misconception that everyone else in Europe, especially France, speaks English. It might just be that we’re in a pretty rurual location, but there’s not a hint of an English speaker when you go shopping around locally. Even in town the French people are clearly proud of their country, and its language, and a little effort to speak in their tongue is clearly much appreciated.