It is incredibly lucky to be living in France, the country of love, of beauty and a rich cultural history. But the learning curve during any kind of immigration is high, and some of my ideological values oppose the values this culture espouses. More than that, some of the daily cultural tasks take some getting used to. Here are a few things that’s taken me 8 months to find anywhere close to normal.
Photo from AlicekeysMD – she loves shutters
France loves barricading themselves into their house. They have gates they lock and shutters they close after dark every night. It’s pure black rooms where you can’t see yourself go to the bathroom at night. I find it terrifying and disorienting inside my own house. My boyfriend has learned to keep all the shutters open for me, and let the dim light in the moon shine in when the insomnia kicks in. Thank goodness – the pure black is just too much. I love waking up to the natural light on my face, and the experience of shutters-closed awakenings leaves me groggy nearly all day.
2. Locking from the inside
Again, barricading from the inside, the French make sure no one can get in or out of their domicile in any hurry. Considering how often I lose my keys with my ADD brain, I’ve managed to lock myself in the house on countless occasions. Canadian locks don’t need keys from the inside, and the level of anxiety I feel when I can’t get out of the house is incredible. I lived in a family that didn’t lock their doors at all, where perhaps safety is taken for granted. Regardless, I really dislike accidentally locking myself in the house, and it just doesn’t happen in my Canadian home. Leaving a key in the door has helped me solve this problem, although, you can’t unlock it from the outside if you do this.
This one takes a bit of getting used to, but now that I have got the hang of it (ba-dum-ching), it makes perfect sense. In Canada, if I want to wash and wear something in the same day, I just use a dryer. I have never tried indoor drying in the winter, but I am sure it would take its time to complete. Here, you have to wait a day before you can wear your clothes again, but I am all for the energy savings that comes with it. Also, my clothes last longer because they aren’t getting heated or tumbled.
4. The Shower
No shower curtains, no hook for the head of the shower – there is no standing in the hot stream and warming up. Numerous times I managed to turn on the shower/drop the shower head and spray the entire bathroom with the glorious fountain that it becomes if you do this. French showers require some ability to squat, take the cold, and precise maneuvers with the shower head to ensure the water stays within the bathtub limits. Needless to say I am clumsy, and its taken me months to learn how to do this properly. I had an easier time pouring buckets of water over my head in the refugee camps in Burma, realizing I didn’t know how to take a shower in a developed country was a shock. Never mind the need to turn it off to use soap or shampoo, which, in the winter is freezing.
5. The lack of heating
Oh joyous summer, you have arrived! Thank goodness.
I am so cold in this country. Most people in France leave their house temperature at about 18 degrees. It’s humid where I live, so minus 10 degrees from what it feels like to be inside the house. I wore scarves, hats, mittens and 3 layers of sweaters / pants all winter inside and out. With my back muscle problems I was sore the whole winter long and was kind of grumpy about it. My boyfriend let me keep my office warm at least, so he didn’t sweat to death with me trying to get warm – I think the french people have warmer blood than Canadians do. It makes sense in terms of energy, but it’s just something I couldn’t get used to in the long run.
Many of these things I have gotten used to over the months of being here, but the culture shock of daily living changes take time to learn properly! Any immigration to a new culture takes it’s toll, it’s the little things you take for granted in your life that you don’t realize will change.