03 July 2009

Hot air 9 - f.u.b.a.r.

f.renched u.p b.eyond a.ll r.ecognition

ive only been gone a couple weeks, but i almost feel unqualified to write this. while i was there, these are the final observations dave and i noticed about the french (and i still love you france, so i say these things meaning no disrespect):

1. the french arent the masters of forming a line. the british win the queueing award. not really sure the history behind the awful line-standing but it is most odd and evident while smashing onto a bus or waiting at a bakery. perhaps because of the socialist government, they know that everyone will get their chance, no one will be left behind. why care about making a perfect line? if someone ends up cutting in front of me, its no big deal, i'll get my chance...

2. being handicapped has a different meaning. for one, european roads and sidewalks are not very conducive to allowing wheelchairs to pass, thus, it seems that every effort is made to get people using crutches/braces. i cant tell you the number of people you can see using those things in a day. i cant tell if the culture of walking and way of life forces the people to use crutches or if it encourages/inspires them. either way, its gotta be good for their health to try and walk and strengthen their muscles and avoid life in a chair if possible. even old, old people walk to the market every saturday. it might take them an hour to walk there, but they will absolutely do it! very tough, impressive people!

3. young people fashion. ive mentioned the black on black on black attire before. but for this, i want to point out that most young people wear converse all-star shoes. along with levi jeans, these are the symbols of american attire and the youth just soak it up. weird. i mean, converse are nice, but seriously, EVERYone has them. also, while we're discussing fashion...capri pants for men...theres a lot of that going around france. couldnt get use to it.

4. they dont serve ice in drinks. daves parents and my mom pointed this one out to me. i'll drink my water at any temperature (though i like it cold), so i hadnt really noticed it. but truly, they dont offer ice for drinks.

5. hotels lack clocks/clock radios. not sure why. the culture of work is that relaxed that you dont need to set an alarm to make sure you attend that business meeting on time?

6. toilet brushes next to public toilets. while its fine to leave dog poop on the street, its expected that you swirl the toilet brush around after you go #2 in a public toilet. no one wants to see the suggestion of what the person before you was doing i guess.

7. tv remotes. weird. you have to like "prime" the tv with one button but it wouldnt actually turn on. then you push the channel up, channel down buttons. im not sure i ever figured out the correct order to push the buttons, but usually after 5 minutes i could get the tv on.

8. arrows. in airports and train stations there would be arrows on signs to direct you around. duh. the right and left arrows were fine. but to tell you to continue straight ahead they would always have a down arrow not an up arrow. its sounds minor, but if you were anywhere near an elevator or stairway, etc. i always got confused...did i have to go downstairs or was the metro station in front of me. i cant really describe the confusion it caused, you have to see it in person. but for me down arrows = bad. up arrows = forward motion.

9. IT servicing. in the u.s., IT people work the weird 2a-6a period of time to take websites down or do any server patching...this is to avoid inconveniencing internet/server users. in france, IT workers have a life. IT updates occur between 5p-7p. nice. thanks. thats the perfect time to be doing that kind of thing. dave and i were never able to get use to that. grrr...

10. gastro problems. while in france, i think every french person i knew was taken down by a nasty gastro virus. this was also something i experienced. i havent figured out why this occurs so frequently, i never knew people to be so ill so often in the u.s. my public health brain is intrigued.

11. sense of humor. dave noticed this more acutely than me. their sense of humor is very straight forward and perhaps a little "cheesy." this is of course in contrast to british humor. daves kind of humor. i hadnt noticed it as much as him, but when we watched "in bruges" recently, we both laughed our asses off much harder than we normally would have. the humor was biting and dark and british. it was obvious we hadnt heard anything like that in a while.

12. finally, public safety. while its a socialist country and everyone gets taken care of. one thing they arent obsessed with is public safety. its just assumed you have a brain and you choose to use it. there arent hundreds of signs saying "caution" or "hot beverage" or "icy sidewalk." people dont sue here and i would argue that the people in france (and countries like them in europe) are actually more free than the american notion of "freedom." as long as you dont put other people in danger, you only take risks with your own body, then the police and society tend to leave you alone. its assumed that if you do do something, you will use good judgement. we spent a good amount of our time at first trying to figure out what we werent allowed to do. can you walk down that street thats under construction? is that area off limits? which direction do i have to enter from? who cares, just use your judgement. one thing i couldnt ever grasp, was the lack of fire alarms. rennes is a city with a history of seriously devastating fires. why dont you have detectors? i think the EU is just now discussing fire detectors and making rules/recommendations. finally!

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