To get started with some cultural differences, I’ve decided to list 10 this time but to elaborate a little with each one. Remember these are just some little things we’ve noticed here in France that are not wrong… but different.
1. Cars park on the sidewalk. This one can make the narrow sidewalks feel non-existent sometimes. But, I’m sure if they could find a real parking spot, they would park there.
2. Motorcycles don’t appear to follow any driving laws, they drive on sidewalks, through red lights, and in between lanes.
3. Trains are a little different than the good old Green line T in Boston. I think they are safe, but you do feel completely cut off from the conductor, so if there was a problem, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do.
4. Graffiti is everywhere. Some of it is real art and adds something to the environment, but there are ugly tags too on just about every train, building, and bus stop. And almost every train window has scratches all throughout so you can’t entirely see out the window.
5. Dogs and grown men relieve themselves on the street (usually facing a building thank goodness). I will admit that in the city sometimes it can be tricky finding a bathroom if you don’t live or work there. And for dogs, I pity that they have next to no grass, especially in Paris, so I understand that part but don’t really understand why their human owners don’t pick it up.
6. Beaucracy (expect long lines and lots of paperwork). We still have some important things to finish, like getting our VISA’s validated. We had to start the process over and re-mail in the information because I didn’t complete one tiny field on accident. Hoping this will be resolved soon because they are other things we can’t begin until this is taken care of.
7. Most stores & restaurants are closed on Sundays. Not the end of the world, and in some ways it’s kind of cool that they hold onto that tradition even though they don’t go to church, but we do need to make sure we have food for Sunday’s then, which isn’t quite second nature for me yet.
8. Less personal space seems to be needed. This was really apparent standing in the Eiffel Tower line the other week. We had a French family in front of us and a German family behind us. We had a constant stream of people trying to pass through in front of us because we were leaving an American-sized gap between us the people in front of us (which was the only gap in the whole line), but without fail the family behind us was literally touching us or within what felt like a centimeter the entire time. And elevators, can be so tight that I literally don’t think I breathe while I am in them with other people. Normally, I just opt for the stairs.
9. Strikes and riots are the norm, but normally it is planned and posted the day of or before which is helpful. Our teammates asked us if we were free to hangout Thursday (which we’re not, bummer) because their son won’t be having school that day because the teachers are striking. So everyone knows in advance and it’s just one day, I don’t really understand what this accomplishes but it must accomplish something…?
10. Men’s fashion options are broader. There are not as many things here that only women wear. For instance, men wear capris in summer, they carry purses, they wear scarves (not just for the cold), some even have fur hoods on their winter coats. I think the only fashionable distinction that is really noticeable are high heels.
That is all for today, but we will try to be continual observers and share what we notice, hopefully not in a negative fashion but in a fun and interesting way.