By: Marisa Bachetti
Anywhere you go, whether in your own country or another, you will experience some form of a cultural shock. While living and studying in France, I came across a few basic everyday differences that I had to overcome.
Although most of the cultural shocks I experienced were not necessarily difficult or unsettling to overcome, they did teach me to appreciate the small things in life. I learned to appreciate having to overcome the little obstacles to learn how to overcome the larger ones and move forward. These little differences taught me some basic skills that are still greatly benefiting me today.
Here are a few (hopefully entertaining) cultural shocks I experienced, and how I adjusted to them.
A basic necessity, right? Well, not quite. The first time I went to do laundry I was quite confused. The machines were normal and had all the same functions, but the problem was, there was only one machine… a washer. Although not the case everywhere in France, it is common for people to air-dry their laundry, a concept that was new to me but that I also learned to appreciate it. Air-drying my laundry helped me save energy, ultimately making me feel better about my environmental footprint, and honestly- I found that driers aren’t truly a necessity.
Something I quickly grew to appreciate was the two-hour lunch breaks. I’ll discuss France’s more laid-back approach to daily life in a minute, but for now, just take that in for a moment. Basically everyone (or so it seemed) had a two-hour lunch break! Stores and businesses closed, leaving just restaurants, grocery stores, and cafes open during that time period.
At first, I found this frustrating; however, I eventually learned to appreciate that extra time. These longer breaks gave me time to catch up on some me-time, socialize with friends, take a walk, sit in the park, etc. Now coming back, I’m finding it hard to not take this break. Unfortunately, it’s not as accepted!
France has some interesting rules in place in regards to the bathroom. Public bathrooms virtually didn’t exist. I was forced to pay in most places (malls, train station, etc.), which seems kind of bizarre. Nonetheless, this taught me to always, ALWAYS, plan ahead.
Everything Closes Early
Have some shopping to do? Groceries to pick up? Well make sure to get it done before 6:00 p.m. because everything else will close for the evening. This custom really taught me how to plan ahead in order to make my days more productive. Know what you want to eat, your local market, the most efficient route, and get it done ahead of time!
Relaxed Approach to Life
I’ll keep this one simple. Lines take forever, buses and people are often late, and stores and restaurants close whenever they wish (forget about “hours of operation”). I noticed an appreciation for life, one that I can’t seem to find as often here. Meals aren’t rushed and you aren’t ushered out of stores and restaurants; you’re encouraged to take your time. This exposure taught me patience, which is a handy tool to have. I almost forgot the difference in restaurants from Canada and France until I came home and went to dinner with friends. The waiter took my plate before I was even finished. I swear, I even had my fork in hand!
During my time abroad, I did have to overcome larger obstacles, ones that resulted in deeper reflection and life lessons, but those are stories for another time. These little obstacles were often interesting and fun to overcome, and have ultimately helped me gain new outlooks on life and some necessary life-skills.
Marisa Bachetti is a fourth-year Communication Studies & Geography student. Studying abroad at the Université Jean Moulin Lyon III in 2017, she has chosen to be part of Stories From Abroad to share her stories and the stories of her fellow Marauders in hopes of sparking a curiosity within readers.