February 7, 2014, by Guest blog

Kissing culture, personal space and bad driving

Post written by Jasmine Philpott.

Living in France has been less ‘challenging’ than I anticipated, firstly because it is almost the same as England, and secondly, in most areas where the two differ, France is better.

I suppose there have been a few awkward moments where I am reminded that French people are not the same as English people. For example, in the staff room, some male colleagues walk in and do the rounds of kissing every single person in the room (me included of course) but others walk in, smile and say ‘bonjour’. There are also several awkward moments with my coordinatrice, who I am quite close to – sometimes we kiss, sometimes we don’t. This is sharply contrasted with my Austrian friend (an assistant at my school) who doesn’t even hug. The best bet is to just let the French person lead.

french building

Another slight pet peeve which makes me feel atrociously British is the issue of personal space. Queuing up to buy something for example. The person behind me in the queue is standing so close that their handbag is digging into my back. I move forward; they do the same. As I go to pay (and more significantly, enter my PIN number into the card machine) said person is already putting their items on the counter and breathing down my neck, quite literally. No-one else seems to notice this, so again, I put it down to a difference in culture and grin and bear it.

My third rant regards driving. French driving is notoriously bad, and Tours does not disappoint. I live on a very busy crossroads, and witness a few minor accidents a week. Most of said accidents are caused by the classic French style of going as fast as you can in the direction you want to go, regardless of the fact that road signs, oncoming traffic, lights or general laws of self-preservation may indicate otherwise. An example of this was something I saw a few days ago, in the middle of town. The tramway runs right down the main street, with vehicular roads running across it. All of the roads have traffic lights on them – very large, very clear traffic lights to tell you to stop as a tram is coming. Well, a queue of traffic was waiting at the red light as a tram came. What struck me as odd and illogical was that all the cars in the queue were hooting. Hooting for the plain reason that they had stopped, and wanted to move. Never mind the fact that the poor car in front had no choice but to stop at the red light. A few minutes later, at the next road that crossed the tramway, I heard a hoot, a crunch, and the sound of squealing brakes. A car had ignored the red light and crossed the tramway. The tram had stopped literally inches from the car. Thank god the trams have decent brakes – because the car drivers in Tours don’t like to use theirs!

In conclusion, that was a fairly exhaustive list. Living in France is wonderful, and the laid-back, welcoming, polite and passionate culture over here gives me little to complain about.

Posted in Cultural challenges