“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”
Back in 2013, I was just finishing up my 2-year backpacking stint through Australasia and I was preparing to head back to Canada with my girlfriend at the time. It didn’t end up being a great relationship, or even a good one. I’ve written about it here, it became extremely toxic and emotionally abusive after coming back to Canada, however, at this point in our relationship things were seemingly going alright. I was living with her family outside of Nantes until we could get her travel permit arranged to bring her back to Canada.
Now regardless of how you feel about the French, they have an interesting and beautiful culture. In fact, most French would not be afraid to tell you that it is the most interesting and beautiful culture. Nothing makes me want to disagree more than straight-up arrogance, however, there is much to appreciate about the country and its society with its fantastic food, strong-willed people and rich history.
So, please join me in re-visiting what I’d experienced, liked and occasionally hated about France. 😀
I remember arriving in Paris with my ex, tired and hungry after a long flight. We checked into a decent hotel somewhere in the heart of the city. Paris was beautiful of course, that’s what Paris is known for after all and it was true. The baguettes were plentiful, cheeses were numerous and cafes practically lined the streets.
One thing that I appreciated about Paris was the fact that I never really saw a single area of the city that looked slummy. Not like in any other big city that I’ve ever been in. That had really impressed me, but it didn’t mean there was a lack of crazy homeless screaming at you from the sidewalks. Big traditional looking stone buildings created the city and looked so similar to each other at times, that I felt like I could get lost in that city very easily. Fortunately, I did no driving there and managed on the subway.
My first meal in France was a complete disaster since my ex at the time allowed me to order beouf tartar, even though I hadn’t eaten a real meal in the 2 days beforehand and my money was tight. It sounded like a steak with some sort of sauce, I mean we eat tartar sauce on our fish, right? Right?!?! She was a true French citizen so she knew what I was getting myself into and she thought it was hilarious. A blob of raw beef and fries made it out to me on my plate, I almost cried. I quietly mixed my fries and raw beef together for a while before sending the other half of it to the bin. Yummerz!
Aside from that, I’d visited the Eiffel tower, of course. Did some skating on an artificially frozen pad in the heart of the city. Ate chestnuts and drank wine. It wasn’t a bad visit, but I detest big cities, and I was happy to get away from the busy feeling of it all.
Living with the “In-Laws”
As I said in the beginning, part of the reason I was in France for so long was to help my girlfriend at the time get her temporary working holiday visa for Canada. We’d been dating for a year and a bit, and she wanted to come to Canada with me. At the time, I didn’t realize this was all phase one in using me for immigration, but I was determined not to leave her side. 🙂
Anyways, the next 2 months involved some interesting and sometimes wonderful experiences. The family was quite good to me, and I did a host of new activities which I’ve never done before.
- I had hunted for crabs straight out of the ocean during low tide.
- I had eaten a few dozen frog legs (they taste like chicken soaked in pond water).
- I took care of sheep on their family farm
- I helped the father craft wine and moonshine (drank too much also).
- I spoke more French than I ever thought I would in my earlier years.
- I ate all sorts of new foods, most delicious, some atrocious.
- I had a French Christmas dinner, involving 6 courses with drinks in between each round (boy was I drunk by the end).
- I’d visited the beaches of Normandy where D-Day happened in WW2, that was quite emotional for me since I was always a fan of World War 2 films, particularly the Band of Brothers mini-series.
- I also took a ride on a giant mechanical elephant outside of Nantes.
- And finally, I was kissed on the cheeks by a lot of men and women.
One night there was a massive birthday party for my ex-girlfriend’s younger brother. It was quite the celebratory bash, and since I already had social anxiety which was doubled by my mediocre French, I drank in abundance. For some reason, my French became really impressive when I was drunk. Go figure. I can understand the French language much better too when I’m inebriated, but the second I sobered up, it was like Charlie Brown’s teacher was trying to speak to me. Mooocck, mock, moccck.
Anyways, I was sick as all hell that next morning and spent almost the entire day in bed next to a bucket. Shots of homemade moonshine at the end of the night prior had almost done me in. Not to mention the French were antagonizing me to show them how a Canadian could drink, and I had to pound a beer out of a glass boot faster than them all to prove a point.
Well, I won. I guess?
“Je ne comprends pas” was something that I said a lot over there. I was the “I don’t understand” boy from Canada. I was learning French on a computer program daily, and I felt that I had a pretty good grasp of the language, but naturally speaking French citizens used a lot of slang and spoke way too quickly for me!
I learned a love for something called Choucroute over there (pork and cabbage), Cassoulet (pork and beans) and Raclette (cheese and meat, including pork). 😉
I wonder why I was so fat when I came back to Canada?
It also made me realize just how much better employees are treated in Europe in country’s like France because most employees started with a mandatory 6 weeks vacation and great benefits. Grocery stores closed down for the lunch hour, as well as other restaurants. It was just so different from North America, where employees are treated like shit and just learn to expect it. I was a bit envious.
I had also realized that some French people ignore social bathroom etiquette, as I once had two French guys trying to speak to me at the urinals in a bowling alley while I was peeing. How do you politely tell someone who speaks another language to bother off while you have your junk in your hand? Strange, and uncomfortable.
I did a lot of running and walking to try to outwork all of the cheese and beer, but it’s not easy to outrun a terrible diet. In the end, I eventually made it back to Canada with my ex and rejoiced for homemade Canadian comforts like Tim Horton’s coffee after two years away. I don’t have much bad to say about France really, except for the fact that not all of their foods are to my liking. Also, some French people can be pretty arrogant, but some are wonderfully kind as well. I suppose they could probably say the same about us.
If it wasn’t for the terribleness of that relationship afterward, I would probably look back upon this trip with fond memories, but with all biases aside, I would give France 4 out of 5 baguettes as a country to visit.
Ever been to France? Comments? Leave them down below!