Adventures in Yonderland

A log of my adventures, both real and imagined.

Differences 1


This begins my record of the differences between the United States and France. First: the language. Duh? But it means quite a bit more than just communication. It’s really interesting how much does or does not translate between languages. Of course, most French might be said to translate almost directly in relation to English. In fact, I’ve heard about 65% of French has cognates in English. Yep. You can thank France for that actually. They invaded England in the early first millennium and established Norman-English which would on day evolve into the language most Americans are familiar with in the modern day.

Anyway, we’ll start with some really basic, very visible or noticeable stuff.

Then we’ll get into the less tangible differences.

First: Unlike in the U.S., there aren’t a whole lot of supermarkets, but rather tons of specialty stores and, here in Aix, open-air markets. From what I can tell there are a few reasons for this. One, being a fairly popular tourist destination, specialty stores have plenty of commerce even in competition with larger department stores. Two, there simply isn’t much space for a huge grocery store or department store. Last, and perhaps most importantly, that’s just not the culture. The French and their bread (perhaps the most common “specialty” store) go way back in history. In fact, bread has been so intristically a part of the French life that at one time the commerce of regional breads was one of the largest in the country. The most famous of the French revolutions was largely linked to the price of wheat and bread (obviously along with a  few other things). BUT, to say that it’s a cultural thing is, I don’t think, unfair.

Second: If you walk out onto the streets early in the morning, they are filled with trash. Literally. We have been instructed by our tenant to put our trash on the curb to be picked up every day at 6-8 (a.m. if it were p.m. he would have said 18-20h. another difference). But it’s not just that. Like, dogs just do their thing (apparently quite acceptedly) on the sidewalks (which I should mention are REALLY small. Like no more than three feet ever). I’ve also watched people just fling cigarettes into the middle of the street. Very different.

The question is why? Well, there are (as always) several reasons I can see. One, there isn’t so much worry about “new,” “clean” or like “nice” things. I think it comes from centuries of chamber pots, horses and literally dumping shit into the streets. Obviously not the same thing, but that’s the kind of culture this society has developed out of. In addition to this, they have street cleaners who (as far as I can tell so far) go through the streets every day and wash/clean them. So there also seems to be much less of a cost to flinging your cigarettes in the street or letting your dog crap anywhere he pleases. It just gets cleaned up anyway.

Wow. Only covered two things. This is gonna take a while. Have a nice time in your wide, clean, new streets and homes! Haha. In seriousness though, please do. I don’t want to say either way is better, they’re just different. Keep this in mind always. France is, after all, a first world country.

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