There’s a saying amongst expats here ‘Only in France…’. It’s used to mean when you see something that to you is unsual, but to the French is normal. Sometimes it is applied to language too, under the same reasoning, but it’s not used quite as much.
Cultural differences are always fun to explore. We may not like all of them, but many we love and adopt wholeheartedly if we can.
What is normal?
If you are a visitor to a foreign culture, simply remember that their history was different from yours. And it is often history that shapes what we think of as ‘normal’ today. But what is one persons normal may not be anothers.
Sometimes it surprises us what others do. There may even be an ‘ah-ha’ moment when you think, now why don’t we do that? And if we don’t do it, it may be interesting to delve into why.
Doing it Differently
Much is often made of France’s way of doing things ‘different’. Southern Fried French highlighted some fun images in their own blog post ‘Only in France’. They make mention of dogs being allowed in restaurants. Or that those living in cities hang their laundry on lines outside their windows. (Though this latter is true in many european cities, not only in France.)
Along those lines, my favourite is the hanging the duvet out the window on a sunny morning. In keeping with this, it is also common to open windows to let fresh air in for a while each day, even in winter. So whilst the window is open, why not air your bed linen? (Tick, yup adopted that one.)
The French Don’t Litter
Another favourite is a very subtle one. Next time you are walking in France, take a note of the odd glove, scarf, hub cap, really anything. It will have been strategically placed where an owner can find it should they return to where they lost it.
In general, litter is not prevalent in France, particularly compared to say the UK or USA. So it becomes more noticeable when something is ‘left behind’. But it won’t be left where ever it may have dropped. Instead, someone (maybe even me now) will have picked it up and put it at eye level. On a windowsill, fence post, or mailbox for example. And if you are the owner of the windowsill, it would never occur to you to remove it. You’ll leave it there for at least a week in case the person comes back to try to find it.
More Fab Findings
I mentioned in our Fab Findings from France Facebook Group recently about the ‘need’ to say hello to everyone. Truly an only in France need that took some getting used to when we first moved to our village.
Every person we meet, whether walking dogs or simply heading to the shops, we have to say hello to. Mostly it’s a passing ‘Bonjour’. But if we know them it may get boosted to a ‘Bonjour. Ca va?’ (Hello, how are you.) There’s even a greeting to encompass everyone ‘Bonjour Messieurs-dames’ (Hello all men and women, or really everyone.)
And if you really know them, well it’s rude not to stop and have a chat. At least in France.
If you would like to see more Fab Findings from France, do please come along to our Facebook Group. The topics we look in on centre around culture, history, language, food and wine, and much more.
And speaking of Only in France, you’ll find some truly quirky and very French things in Our Shop. Go on, have a browse…
(Simply click on the image to see more.)