I can’t believe it, but we’ve officially been living in France for four months. So I figured it was time for an update! Here are some of my thoughts and observations from the past few months, along with some awesome pictures that my husband has taken…
… but first, just a note – I’m not trying to generalize here! I’m just making some observations, about culture and about myself :)
Okay, so I have to admit that I was really optimistic about learning French when I left Newfoundland four months ago. “I’ll be fluent in six months”, I said. Ahhh, no. That’s not to say I’m not still optimistic; I’ll conquer this language yet. But I’m more pragmatic now, and realize it’s going to take some time. (And that basically every French word that has an R in it is really difficult to pronounce correctly).
I’ve been doing French lessons for the past few months (my teacher is awesome), as well as some self-study. And my French has definitely come a long way. I can carry on day-to-day conversations in French without any issue – in fact, no one I’ve spoken French to has switched to English in more than a month now! That’s progress. But to have a more in-depth conversation (that doesn’t involve ordering things in a restaurant, getting my groceries at the market, talking about the dogs, or asking for help in a store), I’ll have to keep working. And that’s okay, I’m up for the challenge. The more French I learn, the more I realize I still have to learn.
Also, I think there’s a definite possibility that learning French is making my English worse… Is that possible?! I keep forgetting how to spell words, and occasionally mess up the emphasis of words. A bit funny, actually.
Before arriving in France, I lost count of how many times people said something along the lines of “they won’t like you if you can’t speak French”. After four months, I can honestly say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. I always try my best to speak French, but even when I completely butcher something I’m attempting to say, or accidentally tutoyer rather than vouvoyer a stranger, I’ve not run into anyone who was anything but nice about it. I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s not my first language, and that I’m trying.
This is another thing that seems to come up when discussing France – the notion that the service in restaurants and cafés (and in general) is bad. When you arrive at a restaurant, I do find that it takes approximately forever for someone to come take your order / acknowledge you. And when they do come over, you best be ready with your order, because you’ve clearly had enough time! Oh, and there are no side plates. Like, none. Super weird considering there’s always bread (incredible bread). I think I even asked for one once, and got a funny look and no side plate…
But those things aside, I enjoy dining out in France more than I enjoy dining out in North America. The pace of the whole meal is slower and more relaxed – no one will start clearing plates before everyone has finished eating (a personal pet peeve), and there’s definitely no rushing you out the door so they can seat the table again. In fact, you can sit there all night if you want! Have some coffee, maybe a digestif… no one will bring you the bill until you ask for it. And I think that’s an amazing way to enjoy a meal.
Paris is such a dog-friendly city! I remember when we first arrived at the airport in Paris, and how nervous I was about importing the pets. “Um, we have a dog here”, I said to the customs officer, all ready with the mountain of paper work, probably more than I needed. He gave me an of-course-you-have-a-dog-this-is-Paris look, spent hardly any time looking at the paper work, and sent us on our way.
You’ll see dogs everywhere on the streets (often not even on a leash), in cafés, shops, you name it! It’s so nice. I really love it, and the dogs really love it.
On the downside, you’ll also see dog poop everywhere… I can actually count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen someone pick up after their dog. In fact, on three different occasions, I’ve been questioned for actually picking it up! One person told me it was gross, and two others told me I didn’t have to do that. Hrm. Don’t get me wrong – you’re supposed to pick it up. There are signs everywhere telling you to pick it up. But I’m not sure that anyone actually does. That said, there are people employed by the city that ride around the sidewalks on scooters, equipped with giant vacuums, that suck most of it up (I couldn’t believe it the first time I saw it) – so the sidewalks aren’t that bad.
So, I like my coffee. My day starts with two to three cups, and probably another two during the day. I posted this picture recently, and for me, it really rings true :)
Here, coffee is strong but tiny. Like, two ounces tiny. The best you’ll do is a café allongé (much like an americano) or café crème (much like a latte), which are still only about 8 ounces. Um, can I have three please?! Oh, and no take-out coffee either – generally, coffee is enjoyed while sitting in a café. Which is actually quite nice. But sometimes I just need the caffeine. So, for the most part, I’ve taken to caffeinating at home, where the mugs are large and the supply is endless.
(ps. If you’re looking for good coffee in Paris, check out La Caféothèque. So good.)
So, that’s pretty much it for now. Both Hitchen and I (and the furries!) are really enjoying living in Paris, and are still discovering new things on a daily basis. We miss our family and friends back home, but I don’t think we could’ve picked a better place to be relocated, and are really grateful for this opportunity!