Hey there crew! It feels so great to be typing these words! I took a completely unplanned hiatus from writing due to some personal reasons that I won’t go into for fear of boring you silly. But the important thing is….(drumroll please)…I’m back and better than ever! Or more realistically, at least the same as before!
I figured my comeback blog post should be something related to my time away from my comfy cyber home and give all those Frenchified followers a little glimpse into the wild world of Kate for the past 8 months. Spoiler Alert. Nothing really crazy happened. I am still conquering the planet one pizza restaurant at a time and spending my spare time attempting to cook French recipes. Of course, when the #fail happens, I order Deliveroo and call it a day.
One important milestone that you did miss was my 9th anniversary in France! I’m not yet in the double digits, but man the number 9 makes me feel like such a veteran. On some days I love it, I feel like I own this city, and other days when someone side eye glares me on the metro, I feel like a cynical old lady muttering around Pigalle about the young kids making so much dang noise. While I feel Frenchified on a pretty regular basis, I’m quickly humbled and brought back to earth when I learn something new, and I’m like “wait, stop right there.” “Say what!” “How did I live in France for the last 9 years and not know that?” This happens more times than I’d like to admit, but here goes the 5 main WTF moment’s I had in 2018!
France is known to have a lot of protests. It’s impossible to live in Paris without coming across a protest or two every month. I’ve always admired this liberty in France to be able to collectively express your satisfaction or dissatisfaction about something so freely. I always knew that protests were legal and based on the French’s passion for protesting, I’d go so far as to say an integral part of the French culture. What I didn’t know though is that when you organize a protest in France, it’s only legal if you inform the governor’s office before you do it.
So for example, if I was upset about a raise in taxes, which meant that my regular Wednesday pizza was more expensive than usual, I could of course protest. But it couldn’t be as spontaneous as I had imagined. I don’t have the right to call up my five crazo friends who believe in the pizza inflation cause, to march the next day. I would need to inform the “Mairie” in advance so that the police could allocate resources to my protest. They would tell me what roads they were blocking off for it and at what time I could safely march. Only then, could I legally protest the pizzagate scandal.
I always had this impression that the French would storm to the streets spontaneously fighting for their rights. While this does occasionally happen, it’s not legal and the police will mobilize and use force to stop any protest if you haven’t gone through the proper process. So if you were planning on spontaneously protesting, I’d advise you to wisely reconsider.
The younger sister to protests is our friend, strikes. An equally integral part of the French culture, I probably have as many crazy strike stories as you have stories about your crazy boss. But while strikes aren’t just reserved for adults in France, (you can see students barricading their high school at least once a year while they protest another educational change), most strikes last a day or two. Sometimes a week when the students really aren’t motivated to take their final exams.
Well my knowledge of strikes was elevated a notch or two this year when the SNCF (French rail company) decided to go on strike. I wasn’t shocked that they were striking, oh no that was a pretty normal occurrence. What was different was that they had decided to strike for a couple of months. #wtf? You can strike for multiple months at a time? Well, apparently so, because it happened. And this type of strike was pretty organized for France. They sent out pre strike calendars with the days that trains wouldn’t be running. They reimbursed tickets in advance so that you could change travel times if they fell on strike days. They also “generously” let travelers whose trains were cancelled without advance notice the day of travel, hop on any train that went to their stop.
I have to give the SNCF credit for trying to prepare travelers for months of strikes. It was their attempt at organized chaos. However, it became more of just utter chaos by the end. I’d still give them a B- for the effort though.
3| Cultural Exception
I’ve never owned a car in France, never rolled down the windows and soared down the highway with nothing but the wind in my hair and some Johnny Hallyday on the radio. I’m not a big movie girl either, so come to find out, my love for Spotify, podcasts and Netflix at home means that my relationship with the French radio & cinema is very limited, borderline nonexistent.
So it’s not that surprising that I have never noticed that the French radio and cinema have strict cultural exception laws about the amount of non-French music and films that can be played. On the radio for example, there are some specific percentages like 30% of the music during the day must be French music and it shoots up to 80% at night.
Now, I love this idea. Europe is full of so many different countries and cultures living so closely together, that it would be easier to lose certain traditions over time. Not to mention globalization and cross-culturalization in general. It’s important to put some rules into place to preserve the French heritage. I’m also not really surprised that the French of all people have taken a form of action to preserve their culture. Have any of you traveled to Quebec in Canada? There is an entire population of French speaking Canadians who emigrated from France and were so stubborn about preserving their language and culture that even when all of the US and Canada became English speakers, the French didn’t even blink. They fought to preserve their language, heritage and way of doing things and they hardcore succeeded.
Based on my current run-ins with the stubborn French and my recent visit to Québec, I’m going to bet on the French winning this cultural battle.
4 | Yoghurt Consumption
I think anyone even just visiting France for a short holiday would notice some of the core staples to their diet. Can anyone give me a B for bread, a W for wine and ginormous C for cheese? Bread, wine & cheese are consumed in such large quantities that you would literally have to walk around France blindfolded to miss this.
I however, failed to notice another food that is consumed so much that it too deserves to get a capital Y. That is my friends, Yoghurt. Yup, the French also love their yoghurt. I had of course noticed that yoghurt is not the breakfast staple in France that it is back home. It’s served more as a dessert or snack and I can guarantee you that the canteen at my office has 5 different types of yoghurt every day not to mention the three different types of Fromage Blanc.
But, what I didn’t know was that it was so popular that France actually produces 2,4 million tons of yoghurt every year… which is 0,5 million tons more than cheese. Now clearly, France still deserves the nickname “Land of the Cheese”, but I’m wondering if the “Land of the Yoghurt” might just start trending too?
5| Name Days
I’m a big fan of celebrations whether it’s a Christmas holiday that 87% of the entire world celebrates, or if it’s the 100th day of school that only 30 tiny tots are celebrating in a small village school. I deem any celebration fun and any reason for celebrating a valid reason. And of course we can’t forget that one day that is all about celebrating the extra special that is YOU. Your birthday. In my world, there was one day a year about celebrating my unique self. But what I didn’t realize is that for some French people, there are two possible days to celebrate you. Your birthday and your name day.
Name Days are specific calendar days that are attributed to each Catholic Saint throughout the year. So if I was Catholic and my name was Katherine, I would celebrate Saint Katherine’s name day on November 25th as well as my own birthday. #WOW, right. Apparently name days aren’t celebrated with as much bling as birthdays, but it’s still a sweet moment to be individually celebrated throughout the year. Unfortunately, there is no Saint Kate, so I won’t be adding this to my list of valid reasons to be celebrating my unique self anytime soon, but good to know.
That’s all for now folks! If you are interested, check out my corresponding video below and subscribe to my youtube channel to stay up to date on new videos! Hope you enjoyed my 5 WTF moment this year. If you have any great WTF moments as an expat in France or anywhere around the world, don’t hesitate to share in the comments section!
Looking so forward to sharing more content in 2019!