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.
What do you think the biggest cultural differences would be if you moved to England for a year?