February 5, 2014, by Guest blog

The ‘joie de vivre’ is all it was expected to be

Post written by Bethany Shutt.

Living in a whole new country that you’re not used to and where everyone speaks a different language to you is hard enough, not to mention all the other cultural challenges that come with it! Living in France since September has certainly been a pleasurable experience, with the ‘joie de vivre’ being all that it’s expected to be.

One of the biggest challenges for me has been getting used to saying ‘bonjour’ to everyone. As I live in a very small town, the sense of community is very apparent. At first I found it strange that everyone was saying hello to me. I was scared that we knew each other but that I didn’t recognise who they were! My colleagues told me that if I don’t say ‘bonjour’ to people either a) they will think I’m rude or b) they’ll know that I am foreign. Although a challenge at first, I have gradually got used to it and grown to like the fact that people are so friendly and take the time to greet you in the street or at work. Also, I’ve learnt do be more ‘kissy’ than ‘huggy’. Us Brits are ‘huggy’ people when greeting people. The traditional French double-kiss on the cheek quickly became part of my greeting technique as well. Not knowing, should I go left then right, or right then left, or is there a little sign I should be looking out for to know which direction I should be moving my head? Wow, that was awkward, and I’m not one for awkward situations!

Another challenge I’ve had to deal with is people not realising that I am in France to speak and improve my level of French. Quite rightly (and sadly for that matter) the French are of the view that few British people speak French. When I speak French to people, either a small error or my accent gives me away as a Brit. They immediately ask me “oh, you’re English?” and start to speak to me in very broken English. Although I ensure them that I speak French very well, they refuse to speak to me in French. This has not only been very frustrating but also very hard to find people in my small town who respect my wish to speak French (seeing as I am in France and have been living here for 4 months already).

Sorry to leave this part of my blog on such a stinky (but humorous) note, but another challenge has been dodging the large amounts of dog poo on the pavements! It is a shame to not see responsible dog owners or rules set in place to prevent this!

Until next time……

Posted in Cultural challenges