February 6, 2014, by Guest blog

The French work to live and do not live to work

For me, one of the most intriguing issues surrounding the French culture lies in their mannerisms. They are known as the ‘kissing culture’ and I would be lying if I said I haven’t found the way they greet people difficult at times. For example, on several occasions I have found it too intimate when meeting complete strangers. The amount of kisses also varies from region to region and I have made a fool of myself trying to guess the appropriate amount for each individual. Some were even offended when I misunderstood the correct amount to give them. I think it is safe to say that I miss the traditional British handshake.

Something else I have noticed as different is the way they approach sport. For one, the French are nowhere near as obsessed with going to the gym: something that is imperative to the British. Personally, I have struggled to locate a gym within a 30-mile radius and those I have visited have been almost deserted. Clearly there isn’t the same social aspect of ‘working out’ in France. On the other hand, I often see people zooming by on their bikes: whether it is to go to work or just for a fresh baguette they seem to love it. I have concluded that they prefer the outdoors when exercising and to be honest why shouldn’t they? The weather is often warm and sunny here.

The way the French drink has taken some getting used to. The tradition of the ‘apéro’ is more civilized than the British ‘pre-drinks.’ In the past, my friends and I have begun a soirée with a little liqueur, accompanied by fresh saucisson. The time was used entirely to converse and relish in one another’s company and led to some interesting debates regarding politics and religion: far from playing British drinking games and downing pints! Often wine was the next tipple of choice: something the French taught me a lot about. Now, I can claim that a good wine must be smelt to appreciate the flavour and consumed leisurely. It puts the British binge-drinking culture to shame!

Staying on this theme, French eating patterns continue to baffle me. They love to eat very late in the evening, which is why restaurants remain closed until 8pm onwards. I have had to train my stomach to become accustom to it! The amount of time they invest in a meal also differs from the British. For example, I was invited to a Friend’s house for Sunday dinner and the whole process took over five hours. The family took the time to appreciate both the food and the surrounding company. I found that it was a way of showing appreciation for the preparation that had gone into the meal. All in all, whether it is food, drink or sports, the French take a relaxed approach. I aspire to adopt this by the end of my year in France, after all: the French work to live and do not live to work!

Posted in Cultural challenges