September 05, 2005
A Foreign Concept
We have been experiencing the real meaning of that phrase lately. There are many ideas around here that are completely foreign to us (why should I be surprised?):
- All mayonnaise here contains mustard. Even if it says "Nature" (meaning plain). Even if it doesn't say or show anything about mustard on the front label. I did find one exception, which was a gourmet mayonnaise in a small reusable glass with a top. Please tell me regular mayonnaise in the U.S. doesn't contain mustard too and I just never noticed?
- At church, now that we are back into the school year, the children are regularly fed lunch in their classrooms while the adults are in the main service. Also, the service goes from 10am until 12:30pm or so. Two and a half hours. This is why they feel the need to feed the kids lunch. But we eat a good breakfast before going to church, and normally Sunday lunch is a family affair for us. 12:30 isn't very late for lunch. We were very surprised at this practice (which no one told us about). Another surprise: Jason's class was walked to McDonald's to get drinks during the service (without us having any idea). This was very weird for me.
- Elementary school children have Wednesdays off and must go to Saturday morning classes from 9 to 12. This may take me a lot of getting used to. Every day off has school both the day before and the day after.
- In Sunnyvale, California, if a stoplight malfunctions, you can expect it to be fixed within a few hours. Here in a small village in southern France, our main stoplight to get out of our neighborhood onto the big road to our village or elsewhere has been flashing orange for over a month now. We've gotten used to it. It'll be strange if and when it is ever fixed. But I wouldn't mind.
- To fill up your regular car's gas tank (with diesel, even), you shell out 51.24 euros on a day like today. That's $64.21. Oh. My.
- But on the upside, here's a foreign concept I actually like: the whole family goes home for lunch every day, for a two-hour break together from school and work. I pick up both kids from school and bring them home for some down time and a meal "en famille" - even David came home today and ate with us. He doesn't always do that, but fairly often. It's such a nice feeling. It brings the family together. It's a pace of life that adds something missing in the U.S. In association with this concept, if children do stay at school for the lunch two-hours, they all eat a hot lunch. No one brings or sends a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school. No one sends anything, in fact. If your child stays for lunch, you must buy the school lunch, which includes a hot meat dish with vegetables and a cheese course and dessert! Wow. Even in elementary school. A different kind of cheese every day, of course. I remember hearing somewhere that France has 400 kinds of cheeses.
- Another nice thing here: At restaurants, if you use a credit or debit card, your card is never removed from your sight. Instead, a little handheld machine is brought to your table, where the card is inserted and wirelessly verified and charged. Wouldn't you think this would be something the U.S. would have thought of? We don't even have to sign anything. Therefore there's nowhere to add a tip; it must be done in cash. That's not so convenient. But then you don't need to tip much either. Just a small token of appreciation. Service is included (hence not very fast service...hmmm, it's all ups and downs).
- At our daughter's elementary school, we've seen cars in the parking lot from Belgium, Germany and Spain. All new arrivals for the school year? Fun to see, in any case.
I am starting to realize I am a foreigner here, on the continent of my childhood but not my adulthood until now. It takes adjustments all around. It's good stretching.
September 5, 2005 | Permalink
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i'll expect that's how i feel if i went home to singapore. i am forever 17 there, barely adult, not driving shopping at teen places. it's the wierdest feeling in the world.
Posted by: tania choi | Sep 5, 2005 5:56:15 PM
I imagine there are tons of "little" things you have to get used to daily. Wow.
Posted by: Helen | Sep 6, 2005 3:08:15 AM
The Baileys spent some time discussing your post and how truly foreign it all seems! Here's my biggest question: how do families with two working parents accommodate all the scheduling back-and-forths? Is it rare for both parents to work in France? Or is employment so localized that it's a quick trip to head home for lunch? I can't imagine how they handle Wednesdays at home for the elementary schoolers!
And no, regular mayo has no mustard in it. I can just see the suitcases bound for Paris filled with Children's Motrin and mayo ;)
Thanks for sharing!
Posted by: Lori Bailey | Sep 6, 2005 4:25:10 AM
Since I am at home, I am no expert in how it works for families with no one at home during the day. I know that those children do stay at school for lunch, though. So they are there from 8:15am (middle school) or 8:50am (primary) until 5pm, or they can stay for study time until 5:30pm, or even later for childcare until 6pm I think (in primary only?). I think most of the middle school kids can walk or bike home from school and take care of themselves after 5pm. For the kids in our neighborhood, there is a private bus that can take them back here at 5pm. And also takes them in to school at 8:05am. We haven't figured that one out yet, but it's on the list to find out about.
About half of the children stay for lunch, and half go home, so it is just as common for both parents to work as not, I guess. Although it could also be that some parents from two-income homes come home from work for lunch, if they are close by. With two hours to kill, that would seem quite doable. Commutes around here shouldn't be more than 20 minutes, I would think, and more likely 10-15?
As for Wednesdays, I have no idea how they do this. Grandparents? Quite possibly childcare at the local youth center (MJC - Maison de Jeunesse et de Culture).
Glad to hear mayo has no mustard in it in the U.S. I am relieved. If I wanted mustard, I'd add it. I don't happen to like mustard, unfortunately, and neither does my daughter...
Posted by: Katherine | Sep 7, 2005 8:15:07 AM
Wow. It's wild to read about how different "things" are. I think the Saturday school thing would be difficult, but the family lunch is so neat. I remember when I was a child, during the summer my dad would come home for lunch. I just loved that time together... It's probably one of my fondest memories and brings feelings of security:)
Posted by: jenny | Sep 8, 2005 7:02:10 AM