Last Wednesday, I had the rare but exciting opportunity to use my French and converse with real French people (les français)! One of my former French teachers was having a French family from the southwest of France (near Bordeaux) staying with her and her family for a few days. (She is friends with the man, whom she met when she was interning in France in her twenties.)
Along with my mother and myself, a majority of the public school French Department in our city was present at this gathering. We ate and conversed in French. I spoke French for almost 4 hours, and had the chance to get to know the man, wife, and their two children; Luis (15) and Laura (12). Luis had about four years of English under his belt, and Laura had just concurred her first year. Besides the man, it was the family’s first time to the United States. I had the chance to ask Luis and Laura a few questions about the differences they noticed between France and the United States. Here are some of their observations:
We eat very early in the US (around 6 pm). In France, people do not sit down to dinner until around 9 pm. Dinner also takes a lot longer— about 3 hours or so.
The French general eat their meals in courses– one entrée after the other (ie: first an hors d’oeuvre, followed by a salad, followed by the main course, followed by the bread and cheese, followed by dessert). In the US, we just eat one big course, almost buffet style- with all the food in front of us. Laura stated that she preferred the French style of dining.
They stated that the toilets are different. In France, the doors for public toilets are most private— all the way to the floor and no cracks! Sometimes in France, the male and female bathrooms are in the same room— just divided by a wall. Additionally the flushers are different. Our flushers are handles, which are located on the side of the toilet. In France, the flusher is a button located on the top of the toilet. Additionally this button is divided into two parts– press the right side of the button if need additional water pressure to flush more down. (This button is designed to save water.)
Luis talked about how houses in the United States are bigger and more open. By this he means fences are lower or almost non-existent, whereas in France, houses are more common than not covered by tall hedges, fences, or cement walls, making it impossible to see a family’s yard (the French have a reputation of being must more private than Americans.)
Cars and roads were one of the first thing the kids mentioned. Vehicles in the US are bigger, roads are wider, and manual cars are almost nonexistent. In France, cars are tiny, roads are twisted and narrow, and everyone drives a stick-shift (automatic cars are pretty much nonexistent, or crazy expensive!)
Overall it was a fun and enriching night– I was so excited to practice my French!