Bonjour! My name is Aviva Futornick, and I’m a 16-year-old from San Francisco spending a semester studying abroad in beautiful Brittany, France.
I thought I’d start my first post with some cultural differences and experiences I’ve picked up since I’ve arrived.
If I’m home, lunch is always eaten together as a family, and it’s a lot of food. If I’m at school, it’s also a lot of food. Normally, I settle for a sandwich and maybe an apple, along with snacks in class, so I’ve had to adjust and find a balance of not dying of starvation or of fullness. Also, if it’s a weekend we never leave to go and do stuff until after lunch.
Basically, the French are very polite and I might be a little rude. People share everything, all in the name of politeness of course, but it still throws me off. The other day my friend had two candy bars with her at school, but only got to eat one because she shared the whole other one with the people are her.
This is also just a side of being polite, and although the French are known for being very up-front and to the point, this is not the case when something goes wrong. If there is a problem or some sort of miscommunication, the people involved will apologize to each other at least 5 times before moving on.
It’s the famous French greeting, the “French Kiss” for little kids and something I may never get used to. I am naturally awkward which adds to this incredibly, but I never know who to greet and who not, when, how many times and so on. I would say my luck is about 50/50; half the time it’s fine and the other half it’s an incredibly awkward situation.
In both my host home and the supermarket, milk and eggs are not refrigerated. It threw me off for a good few weeks. I have no idea about the eggs or if they really need to be refrigerated, but the milk is made with half creme and only goes in the fridge once opened. I’m used to it now, but I think I prefer my 2% back in California.
Unlike in the U.S., where the people I am in class with change each subject/each period, in France each grade level is put in a division and has almost every class together. I was lucky and got put in a class with a lot of nice people, but it’s weird only really knowing the people in your group/section.
This might change based on the school, but at my school teachers change classes as much as students. They carry all of their belongings in their own bag and migrate throughout the day. For me, the majority of my classes are in the same room, but sometimes I’ll have math in one room on Monday and in a different classroom on Tuesday.
Every car here has s stick shift. I knew this before coming because i’ve been here before, but you never really know a stick shift until you are in one everyday. And it’s scary. I can barely drive an automatic, i could never fathom having to drive a stick. So, props to everyone. specifically in France for driving safely with a stick.
In America, I have a drivers ed course online and 6 hours in a car and I can get my license. It’s no wonder there are so many accidents. Here, my host sister is at the driver’s school at least 3 hours a week for probably 2-3 months. Then she gets her permit, which is at least another year, and it’s not uncommon to fail your test at least once or twice. In the end though, drivers are so much better. In the U.S., I almost get in an accident at least once a day, at least that’s what it feels like. Here, I genuinely feel a lot safer. (To be clear: my parents in the States are great drivers. Everyone else is bad.)
Finally, something that took me a while to get used to was doing things mostly at home. When I say this I mean that normally, in the U.S., my family would go out to dinner dinner once or twice every week and we would have people over, or go over to someone’s house maybe twice a week. Here it’s incredibly rare. At my host home, we don’t go out to eat much and have only really had family over or have gone to their family’s house. Sometimes a friend or a boyfriend comes over, but it’s rarely a whole family affair. Coming from a culture of always inviting people over and going out, this was definitely one of the biggest changes (and the language of course) .