I have been roaming this wonderful country for approximately 2 weeks now—relatively, not a very long time—and I feel as though I’ve received a good grip on the unique French culture. This is mostly a by-product of my time spent WWOOFing on a farm in the lower Normandy area. Though I adored living in a renovated chapel hostel in Nice, I spent the days lounging at the beach with my American friends instead of truly immersing myself into the French culture. But out here, cloaked beneath rolling green fields and endless grey skies, I am the only Anglophone for miles around. I am forced (rather willingly) to learn a new language, lifestyle, and culture all at once. It is quite overwhelming, but even more so—fascinating. I understand that all of my points are extremely biased based on what I have experienced. I do not wish to insult anyone, I would only like to delight others with the knowledge I have received. Enjoy, and feel free to express your own opinion as well!
First of all, the French do not understand the meaning of ne touché pas. For those of you too ignorant or stupid to figure out what that means, I’m trying to explain that the French are extremely touchy-feely. They have no personal bubble. In fact, they go out of the way to create physical contact. If you are my parents or a conservative North American, my guess is that you just shuddered a bit or dropped your jaw or maybe, just maybe, let out a slight suppressed giggle. That’s perfectly normal, because in Canada and other similar cultures we aren’t open to touching each other like the French do. At home, when you accidently graze someone’s foot under the dinner table, you are likely to blush crimson and tuck your feet underneath your chair quickly. The French just leave their intruding feet exactly where they land. They’re not being rude—the French, I mean, I can’t speak for their feet—they just don’t really give a shit. In their eyes it’s not a big deal. And honestly, why should it be?
I don’t have time to recount the countless examples I have witnessed, but let me describe one more example whilst touching (excuse the pun) on another point: French men are extremely confident in their sexuality. Not only do they wear ridiculously tight short-shorts and spend more time doing their hair than I do ogling it, but they also kiss each other when they meet. Twice. I was quite taken aback the first time I saw it, and even more surprised when it happened to me. Two kisses on the cheek—left first, than right—is the socially accepted way to greet someone. In fact, it is considered rude and distant if you don’t. Children and old friends seem to be the most open with this odd custom, but even people I have never met before approach me for “faire la bise”.
As my good friend Eli from Israel would quote off an outdoor shower in Nice: French men have no issues being labelled a “Publique Douche.”
The final stereotypical notion I feel obliged to admit is the peculiar eating habits of the François. They really do eat a fresh baguette a day, smoothing the white nutrition-less bread with butter and jam at breakfast and smelly cheese after lunch and dinner. My belly was stuffed with carbs and red wine at every meal. Flies buzzed around the food as my WWOOFing host gulped down cidre, wine, or a strong appertif. Meals are a leisurely, social activity.