LIVING IN FRANCE
Please find below an exhaustive list of all things French people get right:
After spending a fair amount of time living in the south of France, I reckon there’s some things hypothetical French me would have liked about growing up here…
Lunch – French people entitle themselves to two hours’ lunchbreak and often actually use this time to interact with other people who also have a lunchbreak. They eat together and just generally have a groovy and/or pleasing time. A glass of wine is apparently the done thing on a French lunchbreak. This is because they make nice wine and they understand how to drink without getting completely pissed up and sexually aroused. In my mind, I place the technicolour image of a suave French woman spending her lunchtimes in the sun among friends, with a ciggy and a glass of wine, alongside the bleak monochrome scene of a podgy English bloke called Keith eating a pork pie at his desk in Slough. Keith sits alone in front of a spreadsheet and sometimes looks out his window at the rain drizzling for an hour. He might go out for a ciggy under the bus stop, sheltered from the pissing rain. It’s a cruel and unflattering disparity and certainly one that none of us should be very happy about.
Wine – Far from suckling the hallowed teat of Jacob’s Creek or boasting a gaggle of Lambrini girls who “just wanna have fun”, the wine you buy from cheap French offies is genuinely nice and at any rate entirely inoffensive. Alas, long gone are the days of any deified sack’o’wine nourishment, here you’ll be swigging straight from the bottle. You can’t even find bottles of wine with screw-tops… Imagine.
Cheese – There’s a disconcerting variety of stinky, festering milk curds produced in France which are revered worldwide. All sorts of French alternatives to our championed Stinking Bishop with strange, aggressively coloured waxy vertebrae which are either exciting or upsetting depending on your personal stance on cheese. Sadly for me I don’t really like strong cheese. French me would let this cacophonic taste bud experience unfold in his mouth oftentimes.
Rushing – People in south of France don’t rush. They don’t understand why you would rush. I often find myself waiting politely in a queue, sweat seeping into my worsening heat rash, stressed as I wait for a French waiter/barman/person to let me order/pay/leave. It seems like the lovely Mediterranean sun just isn’t conducive to hurrying about. Even at university here, it seems like starting ten minutes late is just the done thing – which seems about fucking right given that most lessons last at least two hours.
They don’t give a fuck – When I was in the UK, I generally found any weird form of personal transport – a category which includes Segways and ‘hoverboards’ – pretty fucking hilarious. I couldn’t take anyone seriously who rode past me with their headphones in, face frowning, when there was a hoverboard cushioned beneath their Nike Huaraches. When I got to France, I felt exactly the same. But I saw them a lot more – significantly more. People even go on the roads with them at night, with helmets and fluorescent jackets on. Given that these machines look funny anyway, I also can’t shake the image of Jimi Heselden, inventor of the Segway, plunging to his death as he Segwayed unknowingly off the edge of a cliff. RIP Jimi. Let France take the baton now, darling.
Please find below an exhaustive list of things French people don’t get right:
Flirting – Unfortunately, if you have a penis in France your life is a lot easier than if you have one of those other things. French men are insatiable scavengers who are always on the prowl for the right moment to sweep a lady off her feet and into their stinky beds. Especially if they’re an English girl who are, by default, considered ‘easy’, because they drink more and wear slightly more revealing clothing in general. Here, we note the classic double standard of men loving seeing scantily clad women yet simultaneously assuming that these women have less self-respect. Showing your lovely sideboob here probably isn’t worth the hassle, unless you want some hassle, in which case, flaunt that sideboob. Perhaps most suitably, the French verb for flirting is ‘draguer’ – they do drag it out to painful extents. I say this with a hint of bitterness because the audacity and tenacity with which the French sleaze is admirable all the same. One of my friends was approached in a supermarket, asked what the difference between tanning oil and sun cream is, then promptly invited for dinner. You crafty old bastards, you.
Being Racist – Just to clarify I don’t mean that they get racism wrong and aren’t proper racists, I mean that they often are. Not that British people aren’t often horribly racist too. It’s just that in France it seems worryingly less ‘taboo’ to say racist things, which I find particularly shocking in young people. I’ve particularly noticed a lot of racism and distrust towards France’s Arab community, often from the Maghreb countries of Northern Africa. In a banal conversation with a French friend in Montpellier, I remarked that it’s interesting to see a more prevalent Arab culture in Montpellier than where I’m from in the UK, to which he replied that “it’s a good thing you don’t have them, they cause a lot of problems.” This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg in terms of the problems of racism here.
Vegetarianism – It would seem that the large-scale environmental benefits of vegetarianism are yet to present themselves to the French. Along with pungent cheeses, the French produce a great deal of high quality meat, and cook with it all the time. Seriously. Vegetarian options at restaurants are therefore generally limited, and the dogged French aversion to Americanisation means that the whole trend of veganism and its subsequent culture hasn’t quite caught on to the level that it has in the UK.