When you first come to France, you expect the grocery store aisles of cheese and wine, but you don’t expect an equally long aisle dedicated to yogurt. It’s like a way of life in France. I don’t think I have a single colleague who doesn’t finish their lunch with a container of yogurt and/or a fruit. For some, it’s a simple fromage blanc, others prefer a classic fruit on the bottom, and still others go for a dessert flavored yogurt. Despite almost never craving yogurt in the U.S. I took up this custom, and now enjoy yogurt daily at the end of my lunch, and occasionally as a snack or with some granola.
The French are obsessed with coffee. And not even particularly good coffee: in fact, a high percentage of French people I know frequently drink instant coffee. A French teachers’ lounge would be incomplete without a coffee maker, and there is usually a line during every recess and lunch break. Luckily, for those who don’t drink coffee (myself included) there is an equal obsession with tea. I am constantly being offered tea by kind colleagues who’ve just turned on the electric kettle. I’ve learned that you should drink tea during the morning recess and an infusion during the afternoon recess. I didn’t even know there was a difference…in English, we say everything is a tea, even if it doesn’t actually contain tea! It’s a habit that has followed me home, and I’m pretty sure I’m to a point now where I drink more tea than plain old water….
Frequently use words like “activity” “concentrate” and “bizarre”
Remember when you first learned Spanish or French in middle school? The teacher insisted on using as much of the foreign language as possible, and even with a lot of miming, you only understood about three words she said. Now, I’m that teacher frantically miming every word I say… But I try to making it easier on my French students by choosing words that they have a better chance of understanding. Instead of “Today, we will do two things.” I use “Today, we will do two activities.” Sounds like activités, a word easy for them to understand. Likewise, “Please focus” becomes “Please concentrate” and “Use a full sentence” changes to “Use a complete phrase” and “Wow, that’s so weird” is now “Wow, that’s bizarre!”
Always say hello, but never twice
French custom dictates that you always give a greeting when entering a place, or when a new person arrives. Whether it’s the bus, the teacher’s lounge, a boutique, or your friend’s house, walking past someone without a friendly “Bonjour” is the height of rudeness. But, if you’ve already greeted that person, and you do it again…well that’s just awkward. For example, yesterday, I walked into the grocery store and one of the clerks was arranging produce in the front. I gave the requisite bonjour and went in search of the groceries I needed. Later, he rang me up. “Bonjour” I told him as a dropped my groceries on the conveyor belt. “Bonjour….or….Re-bonjour I guess” he answered. I laughed, paid for my food, and then gave the standard, and equally required, goodbye : Merci, bonne soirée, au revoir. ❂
Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.