February 4, 2014, by Guest blog

When in doubt, copy what the natives do

Post written by Matt Watts.

So, the Christmas holidays are over and it’s back to work now! I’m still enjoying the job but also looking forward to doing something different in Brazil over the summer! I think I’ve adapted to life over here in France now and have also noticed some cultural differences, as per the title of this post!

Even though France is our closest neighbour and we might expect it to be just like England, apart from speaking French of course, there are actually quite a few differences. The school day here is very different, class starts at 8am (far too early!) and finishes at 6pm (far too late!) which means pupils are often very tired and not very responsive if you get them towards the end of the day and you can see why, having been in school for so long! However, it’s not so bad for the teachers, it’s not like England where you come to school and stay for the day, if you don’t have lessons you’re free to leave the school. And also, we can’t forget the holidays here in France, they’re much longer – 2 weeks for half term, which is great when you’re an assistant as it means you have plenty of time to go travelling!

Similarly, lunch here is much more important than in the UK. The shops close for two hours, from 12pm to 2pm and the restaurants open during these two hours. This took some getting used to at first as we’d often try to go shopping during this time or trying to go to a restaurant at 3pm and find it shut! It just seems odd to me as shops can’t just shut in the middle of the day! Continuing on the food theme, going to a dinner is also different here in France. If you’re invited in the UK to a dinner you normally have between one and three courses but here in France you arrive, talk for a bit, have an apéritif which is normally a light snack and some drinks whilst talking some more, then the starter, main course  and the cheese always comes before the dessert! Finally, there is then the last part of the meal which is the digestif, normally a strong drink! Also, it’s perfectly normal to have several conversations going on at the same time at the table and this made it hard for me to follow at first and get involved but after a while you learn to go with the flow! My attitude is: when in doubt, copy what the natives do!

That’s all for now!

A bientôt!


Posted in Cultural challenges