April 28, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge
Doing things the French way
As silly as it sounds, one of the main challenges my fellow assistants and I have found is the different pace of life here in France. During the summer I experienced 5 weeks of living in a very traditional, French rural village and knew it was the norm for shops and café’s to have short and quite limited opening hours. However, living in a city for the main part of my Year Abroad, I thought that the buzz of city life wouldn’t be that different to a major city in England. But after living in one for 5 months, I can say that you never really know boredom until you’ve experienced a Sunday in France…
So on a Sunday, even in large sized cities, most if not all high street shops are closed and very few cafes and restaurants remain open. This I can deal with. But when you realise you no longer have any milk to make that much needed cup of coffee or you don’t have that missing ingredient for a meal with a friend, Sunday’s become a problem when every single supermarket is closed.
This was a major culture shock as even though Sunday is also quite a laid back day in England, these days things tend to run as close to a normal working day as possible. Nonetheless, you begin to appreciate this relaxed part of French culture and embrace by doing things the French way. By this I mean, taking a long Sunday stroll or visiting a nearby Chateau.
Another cultural challenge is France’s difference in discipline methods in Schools. Being an Assistant, I have to understand the French Education System and more importantly, stick to their teaching and discipline methods. One cultural difference I noticed is that the students, even at GCSE age, have free periods throughout their School day and are allowed to freely roam the corridors in this time. As you can imagine, often getting up to no good. This alone is something that was forbidden in my high school, as it was more than likely to cause disruption to classes.
It also feels as if more than 80% of students smoke and they don’t go far away from School to do this. Most students are taking out their cigarettes before they have even got to the other side of the School gates, something I find shocking but you soon learn it is a part of a different culture.