. . . I don’t think Aisle, France, exists, but could they have made that word anymore chock-full (chalk-full?) of letters whose sounds you don’t pronounce? Don’t answer that, linguists. The Aisle I was in was Aisle 1. Of a grocery store. Standing in this aisle, I noticed what they offer in the U.S. that they don’t have in France and vice-versa. Rabbits and pigeons being noticeably absent from the local Jewel (I stress again: they’re raised specifically to be food. They are not the pigeons of Chicago or New York. It’s not like ‘Duck Dynasty: France’).
It wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds. The grocery store in the U.S. offers so many processed food options compared to your typical marché in France. (Yes, here begins the granola-eating eat-organic-when-you-can tirade. Stop reading now). Anyways, took about ten minutes to pick out what kind of tea to buy. Haven’t they heard of loose-leaf? That is NOT Morroccan mint tea–ha! ‘French’ coffee label? I doubt it. You see how European skepticism can be helpful: it saves you a lot of money at the store.
It is, however, generally a nonchalant errand completed by this American-born gal in my finest American clothing of shorts and a T-shirt. OK, you got me, jeans and a T-shirt. The point is, I don’t have to actually think about what I’m wearing everytime I want to step out in public, whereas in France . . . well, I would *have* to be a very poorly informed, comfort-preferring tourist with a strange sense of humor to wear that in public. More on that later.
Otherwise, I miss the personalities often found at the grocery store (and the mall), and the singularly French expressions. Half-comedy, half-pessimism, all-hilarious. No need to understand what they’re saying-the tone and the expressions alone are enough. This stuff really happens at your Monop (Monoprix), or whatever grocery store you find yourself in in France. There aren’t subtitles, but this ad’s point is that you can skip the hassle by using certain smartphone apps. For those who run errands the old-fashioned way, cue the negativity, nagging old ladies, and the poor guy who forgot his grocery list and doesn’t have a carte de fidelité (loyalty/discount card):
*Note: the rest of this post contains 3 more YouTube videos illustrating certain aspects of French culture, (subtitles not needed for these, hooray! But good for the French majors who are reading, I assume). I’m trying to keep the blog “hip” for the youngsters by using pop culture and technology as a source.
I also miss facial expressions, certain body langauge ticks, and mocking sounds that only exist in the French language. Like whistling to replace words, actions, emotions and ideas. And of course, that uniquely French sound: that sigh-growl-dying-vacuum-cleaner sound that expresses anything from sheer exasperation to flirting (this is one of those “you had to be there” moments, I suppose).
On an entirely unrelated subject, school days in France–for students and professors–can last from 8h-17h (8am-5pm) or even a little bit later, depending on schedules and les conseils de classe. This, combined with potential classroom environments, also might be why the coffee machine is the most popular staffroom pastime, followed by gossip and philosophical debates about pedagogy, during the 10:15am pause. Entre les murs, whose principal actor is also the author of the book that this mockumentary is based off of (and the book itself is based off of his actual experiences as a teacher just outside of Paris), demonstrates what can be a fairly typical day, although it takes place in a college (roughly equivalent to 7-9th grade) –and thus, the need for coffee!
This film has it all: verlan (French, but inverted and usually with connotations; ie, la femme becomes la meuf) and argot (slang; ie, un livre becomes un boquin).
The above, combined with the daily routine of bureaucracy, complaining, teaching, politicking, Expo-marker-searching and good coffee machines, as well as workplace hilarity and those moments when you think: Is this really happening?, somewhat approximate an average day as a teaching intern at a high school.
Leaving the cigarettes and coffee machines at school, I miss the noisy Nescafé machine chez moi, complete with the multi-colored fancily-named capsules that I never remembered the names of, especially if I was the first one up in the morning (0:00- 0:36, dream vs. reality):
^^because who doesn’t love to wake up to that noise?? It does at least make good, strong coffee.
So, while I love the U.S., (and its grocery stores of course), I miss this:
This dog obviously appreciates France, too. Just look at him. (This is the village of Sarlat-le-Canéda in the Périgord region of France. Village/town names can have an infinite number of hyphens, yes). Our spring retreat to this region (my fellow Americans and I, as well as some Canadians from my study abroad program) was led by our fearless French directrice. It was a wonderful trip, complete with, of course, coffee–in a bowl! Drinking coffee from a bowl with your two hands is common in France, by the way (not at a café, but anywhere else), and not at all weird. Once again, you would think you use the spoon for that, but the spoon is just for stirring in milk, cream and/or sugar. You would never “eat” your coffee from the bowl with your spoon, just as you would never dare to cut a leaf of lettuce with your knife!
Le P’tit Déj – du jus d’orange, du buerre, du pain et du café!