Bonjour, dear readers!
Team France have been on the ground in Paris for 11 days now (time flies etc.) and whilst we’re all settling in well, we’ve noticed some things which are strange to us, but totally normal to the French people around us. It’s been really interesting to be able to dive into a culture which seems both familiar and alien to us, and since we are all excited to explore and engage in French culture, we’ve pulled together a list of a few differences we have already began to notice, so you too can learn a little about the culture we’ve experienced so far…
We all knew language differences would be a potential barrier to overcome in France, but none of us had really considered how difficult it would be to introduce ourselves. Due to a number complex linguistic reasons which we don’t wholly understand, the average French-speaking person isn’t able to pronounce any of our names in a way we would have deemed ‘correct’. Essentially, Bridget has become ‘Brijheet’, Jennie is ‘Jhennee’, Hamish is understood as ‘Ameesh’ and I, Ruth, have to introduce myself as ‘Rhoot’. This may seem like a bit of a joke, but we really do have to introduce ourselves this way otherwise we are met with confusion as people don’t understand what we’re trying to say! We’re all finding it very funny, but equally struggle with pronouncing and remembering the names of the people we meet.
OOH LA LA
We all thought that the French exclamation of surprise, ‘ooh la la!’ was simply a myth or joke, so when we heard someone use it as a genuine expression for the first time we were shocked! It turns out that, where we are living at least, a go-to cry of shock, disapproval or stress really does seem to be ‘ooh la la!’. In the true spirit of Action Teams and cultural engagement, members of Team France are attempting to train themselves to use ‘ooh la la’ as a natural response – Hamish is currently the biggest user of ‘ooh la la’ in the team.
Since our accommodation here is a house to ourselves, we’ve been doing a lot of food shopping. In the UK we were used to using ‘bags for life’ to carry our shopping home, but in France, loads of people opt for using pull-along wheely shopping bags instead. We tried it out once and really enjoyed it, although for us it did feel a bit like taking a suitcase with you to the shops, so since then we’ve stuck with bags without wheels most of the time.
Our greetings, goodbyes and introductions to new people, so far, have also included a fair amount of cheek kisses. Again, this is a custom we were vaguely aware of as a team, but unsure if the people we met would actually engage with it or not, and didn’t know how many kisses were expected or which cheek would go first. Since arriving, we’ve discovered, from experience in the Massy-Palaiseau and Gif-sur-Yvette areas, that you normally give/receive 2 kisses and start with the LEFT cheek (this detail is key otherwise you can end up in a slightly awkward position). We’re quickly getting used to this as a habitual greeting, but since we’ve not ventured far from the area in which we’re staying, we aren’t sure whether it’s the same all across France. Excitingly, trips to Poitiers, Brittany and potentially the south of France are on the cards, so we’ll be able to find out!
In many ways the house we have, and homes we’ve been welcomed into, are the same as we would expect in the UK, but there are a couple of subtle differences which have thrown us slightly. Firstly, it seems that most houses in France don’t have carpeted floors, but have tiles, lino or wood instead, partially because they’re seen as easier to clean, but also simply because, culturally, carpets seem to be less popular. As well as this, most houses we’ve been to, instead of having a single bathroom like we are used to, have a separate room for the toilet. Our house, for example, has a ‘toilet room’ without a sink, and our sinks and showers are both in other rooms nearby. These differences aren’t at all an issue for us, but they have definitely meant that it took a little longer than we had expected to settle in and feel at home.
So far we’ve had a great time living in France, especially being so close to central Paris and its amazing sights, and experiencing these cultural changes have been fun and interesting, as we all want to really get stuck into a culture that has turned out to be surprisingly unfamiliar to us. We also can’t wait until these things which seem alien to us at the moment become normal to us all!
Thank you for your continued support and we always value prayer from you, if you would like to support us in this way.
- praise God for safe arrival and settling in
- pray that different culture wouldn’t be difficult to adapt to
- pray for good health (as flu season seems to be hitting Team France) so we can continue to serve well in all our projects
- pray for French to come quickly to us all, so that we can clearly communicate to those around us and share the Gospel’s good news!