21 May 2008

Pointless Post with lots of Points

I'm sure there are other little pointless bits of information that have been bugging you... if you're curious about any other banal details, comment and I'll add to the list!

Little Insignificant Tidbits About Life in France

- At the end of Mass, the priest says "Bon Dimanche à tous" (have a good Sunday) and everybody mutters/whispers their thanks, which sounds like a resounding "sss" throughout the cathedral.

- In French books, the table of contents is at the end.

- Popcorn at the movie theater comes in salty or sweet. Neither is covered in butter.

- Cinnamon and ginger are not frequently used in France.

- The French use the 24-hour clock. It took me about six months to get fully used to it... even though I'd been practicing for months before I arrived, and had to use it in Russia. It's really hard to retrain the way you think about time!

- It's not unusual to see lap dogs on trains.

- The Assumption, All Saints' Day, Ascension Thursday, and Pentecost Monday are national holidays.

- Acetaminophen is called Paracetamol.

- An "ombrelle" is a parasol, and a "parasole" is a beach umbrella. (A "parapluie" is your average rain-blocking umbrella. Very useful in this half of the country!)

- My favorite cereal in the world is sold in France (under the name Trésor, made by Kellogg's) and Russia (by Nestlé) but not in America. They're like solid Chex filled with powdered Nutella... yum.

- Electrical outlets have two small holes.

- A French breakfast has lots of sugar and caffeine (pastries or yoghurt and coffee) but no protein (meat or eggs). People are always surprised when I tell them what I eat for breakfast: eggs, yoghurt, and milk. No coffee, yet I stay awake all day. Amazing.

- Concerts/plays never start earlier than 8:30.

- Movies are released on Wednesday, not on Friday.

- Rain is rarely hard; it's usually a drizzle. Two days ago, I heard thunder for the first time this year.

- Toilets flush in interesting ways: there's usually a knob on top, which either has to be pulled up or pushed down. Sometimes there's a wide button to push. Sometimes the wide button is on the wall. Sometimes there are two buttons, for low-pressure and high-pressure flushes. Sometimes there's a chain to pull. I haven't seen a lever yet.

- Books don't come in hardcover. When books are new (before being released as a pocket paperback) they're a larger sized paperback. It annoys me, since they're not as durable.

- You can't buy a gallon of milk at the grocery store. It doesn't come in bottles that big, since people don't use a lot. The French don't drink milk straight like Americans do.

- Yoghurt comes in those little connected containers, not the larger separate pots like in America.

- A lot of people (me included) use fountain pens or other cartridge pens, and often use erasable ink. The erasability is through a separate pen: one end has a clear eraser, and the other end has a felt tip pen that has non-erasable ink, which can write over the area you've erased. Since the eraser solution is liquid, it makes the spot of paper you've used it on impervious to erasable ink. (Hopefully that comes somewhat close to making sense...)

- Tall buildings aren't very tall in France.

- Temperatures are in Celsius, and weight is in kilograms.

- French adults usually wear rectangular glasses, and kids usually wear very circular glasses.

- The first day of the week is Monday.

- Exam procedure is weird. There are students taking exams for lots of courses in the same room. You're told which desk number to go to, and you fill out an exam form, which has your name and information in a corner which is folded and glued down (like an envelope) so that the graders (who aren't always the professor) don't know whose paper they're reading. You're supplied with scrap paper too. Before the papers are handed out, they tell everyone to empty their pencil cases and put them away, and it's loud as they all do. French students are used to having pencil cases on their desks at all times. (They're trained that way.)

- There are lots of roundabouts and one-way streets.

- Everyone seems to follow the (relatively low) speed limit all the time.

- Band-aids don't come in colors or designs for kids.

- It's cheaper to buy tissues in little packets than in boxes.

- The keys are in different places on French keyboards. You have to press shift to type numbers, since most of those keys are for accented letters.

- There's a stereotype that French women don't shave: and there's a little truth to it, since true French women wax.

- In all my time in France, I've seen one stray cat and no stray dogs.

- French doctors have terrible handwriting too.

- Golden Delicious are the cheapest apples.

- French homes usually aren't air conditioned. They have thick walls, and summer is mild enough that it isn't necessary.

- There are very very few natural blondes in France. I would estimate that about 98% of French people are brunette. And most of these have very straight hair.

- When you call a phone in France, you don't hear a ring like in America. You hear a repeated beep until someone picks up.

- Eggs are brown. (Wikipedia says this is due to species and breed of chicken.)

- Stores (including grocery stores) are closed on Sundays. So are most restaurants.

- There aren't breakfast restaurants. People might go to a café for a pastry and coffee, but that's the extent of restaurant breakfasting.

- In Paris, there are a handful of 24-hour pharmacies. They're not common. When I try to explain why I thought this was strange, French people try to explain why no one would ever need to go to a pharmacy at night. If it's really serious, they can call a doctor. If it's not, it can wait.

- Streets aren't built on a grid system. They're built on a "hey, we could put a street here" system.

- Taxis don't have a taxi light on top. They just have a sign on the side saying that they're taxis.

- The most frequently studied languages in schools are English and German. A far third is Spanish. Nine other languages can be taught, but they're rare.

- In the university system, there's no correspondance between number of credits and number of hours per week.

- You can buy horse meat at the grocery store. It's for people, is just called "Horse" in between the "Pork" and "Beef" sections, and I haven't tried it yet. I've been planning to, but it's hard to drum up the courage.

- The French are very good at remembering to bring their reusable bags to the grocery store. At some stores, you can get the cheap little ones for free, but some stores don't have them. In this case, they sell bags (either disposable or reusable) at check-out.

- Drivers actually slow down when the light turns yellow... sometimes coming to a very fast stop. You're not allowed to cross when the light is yellow.

- Speaking of that yellow light... they're called "orange" here.

- Doorknobs on external doors are usually for decoration. The door only opens with a key, whether it's fully locked or not.

- Most houses have a high wall around them, so that you can't see into the yard. Some just have a high fence. Houses that aren't surrounded by a fence, or those with short fences, are called "American style."

- A lot of people think that the English word "bra" comes from the French "brassiere." However, the French word is soutien gorge, which literally means... "throat support." I think that's hilarious.

- The French, from kids to adults to really old adults, read comic books. They're considered a true art form.

- There's quite a bit of US election coverage in the (national) press, probably because our system is so weird. It's pretty optimistic. Coverage about the French government, though plentiful, isn't so cheerful. The new first lady, however, is quite well-perceived, over all.

- You hear a lot in the press about how the dollar is weak, but that's not entirely true: part of it is the fact that the Euro is having unprecedented inflation-- higher inflation over the course of a month than France had had for a decade, to be precise. It's hitting some people pretty hard, since prices on necessities like food have gone up markedly, but wages are stagnant.

- The "old people" demographic at Mass is pretty strong, but there are plenty of youth, young families, and middle aged people too. At least, it's balanced at the cathedral. Some churches (like the Madeleine, where I went once and was... disturbed... by the music) have a much much younger population, and some (like the Abbey where I go when I remember to wake up in time) have a very old crowd. There, I'm usually the youngest by... forty years or so. There are lots of churches, and because of the way the town grew, they're close together. Each has a unique congregation, because it's easy for people to go where they're comfortable, they don't necessarily have to go to the nearest parish. You hear a lot about empty churches in France, but from my experience, churches are only very empty if you go to Mass before 11 a.m.! Sunday is the day to sleep in.


Matthew said...

The pharmacy thing is due to regulation. Sarkozy is trying to change is but coming under stiff resistance. They don't want drugs available OTC or in other shops like in so much of the civilised world (the UK).

Le cinq blog said...

Wow! That was one good looooong cute list.
I laughed out at the "throat support"
you did mention the comics twice(just mentioning this all in an attempt to prove that i did indeed read the whole thing in detail)
Merci for giving me something fun to read for a bit.