April 28, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge
Things that annoy me as a Brit abroad in France
How different can France be from the UK? We’re separated by only 20 miles of water, share a Western European identity and history, and can hop on a train to pass between the two! You would think that surely a Brit abroad in France cannot be facing as many cultural challenges as, say, a Brit abroad in China. That may be true, but I have faced many cultural “challenges” here in France! I’ve decided to talk about four cultural differences that may seem superficial to some, but affect my everyday life. This list may or may not be viewed as a list of things that annoy me about France. Side note: I do love France.
- “Faire-in’ la bise”
Whenever you meet someone new or see someone for the first time that day i.e. at work, you have to do the double cheek kiss. As a bumbling Brit this still feels awkward and unnatural. Firstly you have to decide whether it’s the appropriate social situation to faire la bise (it unfortunately usually is). Then you determine which side to start on. Then you stumble over a “ca va” and an awkward lean. Then you touch cheeks with the 60-year-old science teacher at your school. Inappropriate, awkward, and slightly intimate…
The politeness of Brits is a well-known stereotype, but I have found it to be true nonetheless. Queueing attentively, being genuinely friendly and stepping aside to let someone pass are things sometimes lacking in a French city. I don’t want to overgeneralise the French as a nation as I have met lots of lovely French people, however in day-to-day public life I often come upon impoliteness. I understand no one means to be rude but it can sometimes appear that way!
All French young people dress the same. It seems no one really expresses themselves through style and if they were to, they’d probably be given a funny look. What’s more, in Britain we are beginning to recognise the harm in slut-shaming and that wearing short, tight clothes means nothing other than wanting to wear short, tight clothes. However, French thinking has yet to develop that far (sorry Simone de Beauvoir) and as a woman, this can be problematic.
- “Horaires d’ouverture”
The most annoying/challenging thing about France is the opening hours of shops, banks and post offices. The latest a shop will stay open is 10pm, and that is restricted to big chains only. Everything else is also closed for lunch often from 12-2pm. And don’t get me started on Sundays in France! However, not having 24/7 access to whatever I want is not so challenging and if anything highlights the Americanised, I-need-it-now attitude Brits have adopted!
Voila: Four things that are somewhat challenges to me as a Brit living in France. Yes, they are superficial cultural differences yet they affect everyday life! And it’s true, British and French society don’t differ greatly, yet it’s the small things that make a big difference!
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