Magazine blog

Monday, 3 November, 2014 - 13:57

Culture shock: cultural differences in France

by ZoeH

Although we are only a short journey across the channel from France, there are many intriguing cultural differences within our daily routines and mannerisms which in a new environment, can take several weeks to feel ordinary. In our pre-departure meetings at university I was often told that I should NEVER refuse an invite to a social event or any sort of offer in that matter as I am unlikely to be asked again. This was something I thought nothing of, until I experienced the tension it could create in the staffroom when you turn down a lift from work because you made other plans. Since then, I have found myself immediately saying ‘yes’ to every invitation as I have learnt there is no polite British way of saying no in France, even if it does mean spending time with over excitable, face-licking dogs.

Second cultural difference; food and eating times. After four weeks of living here, I am still getting strange looks as I tuck into my packed lunch behind a computer screen whilst the other teachers head off to the canteen for a leisurely three course meal and a 2 hour ‘pause’ that seems to involve every employee and workplace in France. Coming from the north of England, eating my evening meal at 6pm is a standard procedure so having to wait until 9pm when dining at teachers' houses can be quite a challenge for my stomach but certainly worth the wait when I can try some of the local delicacies. So as you can see, I am quickly becoming accustomed to this more relaxing and laid back way of life as, quite frankly I would be silly not to.

Another aspect of France’s food and drink culture which I find strikingly different is the café culture. I am beginning to warm to a quick espresso but I can’t deny that nothing beats a good old catch up with friends and a tall latte and a slice of homemade cake in a cosy English tea room. 

Finally, onto greetings, at home I feel comfortable shaking someone’s hand on a first meeting, so when I ‘faire la bise’ (greet with two kisses on the cheek) with a stranger, I feel slightly out of my comfort zone but appreciate nonetheless this part of the French culture. Altogether, being exposed to cultural differences is an enriching experience and is certain to make you appreciate your roots more and open your eyes to the different ways of living all over the world.
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What do you think the biggest cultural differences would be if you moved to England for a year? 

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