Lessons Learned From a Year in France
They tuck into croissants yet never put on weight

After a year spent living across the channel, I still think the French are arrogant, aloof and high-handed but will grudgingly admit I have a little more respect for them. Here’s what I learned…

British public transport is rubbish.

I was on a train from Lyon en route to Grenoble when it stopped unexpectedly for 10 minutes. Within seconds of grinding to a halt the conducteur’s voice boomed over the tannoy apologising for the delay. When we did set off a few minutes later, a member of staff came along and personally apologised to every passenger for the ‘disruption’ to the journey. Just like First Capital Connect would. I also failed to mention the splendour of the trains themselves. The glossy, double decker high-speed TGVs show the Gallic nation knows how to do transport.


Looking your best matters.

For a few months I lived with a French family in Limoges. Madame wouldn’t even go to the corner shop to buy a baguette without applying lipstick and throwing a scarf on in an‘elegant chic’ kind of way. She explained that French women all believe in “le no make-up look” but just knew how best to apply it to look their best. For the French, she said, one must look presentable at all times as you never know who you might comes across.


The French have a diet stuffed with cream, butter and cheese but aren’t fat.

You don’t see many overweight people waddling around France and the few you do spot may well be tourists or British ex-pats. Seeing as the French don’t diet or spend hours at the gym this seems a tad unfair. But you see, the French have the right attitude when it comes to food; they don’t snack, they savour their food (we bolt down a sandwich in the time it takes to butter a petit pain) and they’re passionate about cooking – junk food and ready meals rarely exist.


Rain is not always a bad thing.

Unlike us Brits who bemoan the weather on a daily basis, the French see the upside to the odd downpour. Rain makes the countryside beautifully green, rain means there won’t be a summer drought, rain means we can use a fancy umbrella…. you get my point.


The French are fiercely protective of their language.

Concerned about the invasion of the English language, the Academie Francaise creates new French words for American or English words. But sadly for the preservers of the French language it isn’t always successful. Take the 1980s iconic Sony Walkman. Fed up with people calling it a  ‘Walkman’ the AF insisted on usage of the word baladeur. It didn’t catch on. Radio stations are also required by law to play at least 40% of songs in French.


Politics matters.

Voting matters. And it’s not just the older folk who take an interest. The majority of teenagers argue theatrically over politics, they’re generally interested in the state of the economy or France’s international policies. I doubt the same could be said for their British counterparts.


Anything else you’d add to the list?


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