We recently celebrated one year living in France (and welcomed my parents from the UK for the first time to coincide with it). With the year mark up, I thought now would be as good a time as any to share a few things I have learned in the 365 days I have lived here. This list is obviously not ALL I have learned (i.e. list is not exhaustive) while I have been here, and is also obviously meant to be tongue in cheek. Obviously.
- French people don’t queue. Yes, this might sound like a typically British whinge, but as someone that needs to get about on public transport and often with a young child in a buggy, I have found the lack of common courtesy and manners from French people quite frustrating at times. Over the summer, whenever I have been on a tram/train/bus (delete as appropriate) either getting on or getting off transport is a nightmare. While waiting for a bus or tram, I have been in what I assumed to be a queue, only for the bus/tram to arrive and the queue become a free-for-all which surges towards the doors, leaving my daughter and I bewildered. I mean, there are plenty of seats, and everyone is going to get on, but waiting just doesn’t seem to be in the French DNA. It’s not just getting onto the public transport either. I have been on a tram twice this year with my daughter, and when I have arrived at my stop and the doors opened, I have been greeted by a gaggle of Frenchmen and women (is that the plural?) pushing to get through. To me, logic would dictate that it would be easier, and there would be more space for new passengers if they let me (and others) disembark first. I lost it the second time this happened as I was close to getting trapped on the tram and going past my stop. I swore, rather loudly and in English while gesticulating to people to move out of my bloody way and found they parted quicker than the red sea, all the while remarking about how rude the British are. The bleeding cheek of it.
- Public transport is better. I need to balance the negative of my first lesson learned with a positive. Public transport is WAAAAAAY better than the UK. Everything runs to time, and if it can’t run to time you get advance warnings and notifications (at least where we live, we do). The trains are comfortable. And CLEAN. I would love to invite the chaps that run Northern Rail here (at their expense of course) and show them how a train carriage should look and smell. They could probably pick up some learnings from timetable scheduling too from what I understand of the summer 2018.
- The British ex-pat community are all snobs. When I first started exploring the ex-pat community, I found a lot of toxic facebook posts and threads on forums. Apparently, you aren’t allowed to say that you miss something from the UK, or suggest that you would like a Sunday roast. This is something I have experienced first hand. Ex-pats are stumbling over themselves (like Frenchmen trying to get on a bus) to ask you why the hell you moved to France in the first place. It’s okay to like something that is not French guys. Get over yourselves. Brexit is a swear word, and you can find yourself banned from a Facebook group for even to ask what a potential consequence for an ex-pat could be of the UK leaving the EU. Don’t dare ask for advice either, because someone will reply with an eye roll emoji or a sarcastic comment. As an ex-pat now myself, if I could give even the smallest piece of advice that would support another ex-pat or potential ex-pat and help make their journey more simple or stress free, I would. At the risk of sounding like an empowerment movement, we should be helping to raise each other up, not tear each other down.
- You’re lucky if your delivery turns up on time (if at all). Amazon might be a global brand, and Amazon Prime may be a product they offer in multiple countries, but the services are just not equal. My experience back in the UK of Prime is that you are given a delivery date, and then the product turns up on that date by 8pm. In France I find that the product or service just doesn’t turn up, and I only get a notification the following day (after having made myself available all day between the hours I was informed it was going to arrive). ARGHHH! Before anyone thinks I am down on just Amazon, it is universal across all couriers and shops/retailers that deliver. DPD in particular either don’t bother or pretend they turned up and couldn’t find us and just leave it at the local post office. Which is not that local. It’s probably just down to the vastness of France that deliveries don’t turn up when they say they are going to turn up. But that’s too sensible to complain about.
- I love living here. I would not change a thing. Despite the small, trivial and hopefully entertaining complaints, I have loved the challenge. I live by the sea in the South of France. How can I hate that? I have loved facing adversity and overcoming the language barriers (slowly but surely). I love the new cultures and traditions that I have been exposed to. I have made new friends and got to know my extended family here in France better. And bizarrely, I have almost seen more of my family in the UK while travelling for work than I usually would, and appreciate the time that we have together more. Yes, this post may have been a thinly veiled attempt at complaining about France’s inability to queue correctly, but we’ve been here now for one amazingly enjoyable year and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.