It's almost too late to write this post, because we've been in France for about five months (or is it six already?). That's (almost) half a year! Aaaaahhh! It's kind of hard to believe because it feels like we just got here. But I've been taking notes! I wanted to document my first impressions, especially because they are changing the longer we are here. Here it goes:
1. The smoking. I am really trying not to be judgmental about most things (especially in a new country), but I will totally judge this. EVERYBODY SMOKES. Women pushing strollers, moms at a park, PREGNANT women, your grocery store clerk, the 14 year old at the tram stop, the 80 year old walking down the street, the sellers at the Farmer's market. I think I have witnessed every single type of person smoking. Even my son would point out every person smoking and yell "Mom! That guy is smoking in the car! YUCK!" I appreciate and love California for being the opposite so much!
*** Update: I don't notice all the smoking so much. I guess I am used to it now.
2. The food. Where is this healthy, organic and delicious food?
The grocery stores are full of products filled with preservatives. Most popular stores are huge and it can take easily a couple hours to buy even a few things (especially when you don't know where anything is). So maybe the healthy products are hiding somewhere? We still need to find where to shop and learn how to shop. It definitely feels overwhelming in the beginning. Oh, Trader Joe's, how I miss you!
Restaurants are expensive, take a long time to get your food and don't like kids... so it will be awhile until we get to know that side of France. Although I have been hearing about these "really good and affordable" places, that "don't mind children" but haven't found them yet.
Farmer's markets are awesome and beautiful, and full of amazing produce. We go every Saturday to a market near our house and we buy all our vegetables, eggs, olives and cheese there.
****Update: I finally have a small list of places I like to shop at and I know where to find most things that we eat/ want. Things we buy at the Farmers' Market have been reduced drastically. It took me awhile to catch on how expensive it actually is! Let's just say that Lidl is my new best friend (a discount grocery store), and fresh, organic food is a luxury just like in the USA.
3.The wine. Lots and lot of good and affordable wine. This makes us very happy people.
3. The bureaucracy. Everything takes SO long. Any simple task requires a ton of paperwork, time and energy. People still prefer phone or real life conversation to take care of all business. It might sound very nice, but when you have to go to the bank for a every single question and provide a thousand and one document before they even talk to you, it gets old pretty fast. Also, there are usually various processes for things. Every time you talk to someone, it's different documents you need and a different timeline. People here seem to be ok with it... they say "you get used to it" and "call again if you don't like the answer". Things just seem very complicated. And here, I thought DMV is a mess....
4. Post office. It is quite expensive (compared to postage in United States). You also pay taxes for packages received that are worth more than 45euros. So, please, don't send us expensive gifts. 😉
5. Language. Not a lot of english is heard around here (South of France specifically). Many French understand and could speak, but they chose not to. Whatever the reasons might be. It's a bit annoying especially when you clearly need help (like at a register at a grocery store, and you're holding up the line because you don't understand what they want from you.). However, the French attitude is that it is my problem that I don't speak French. And I guess they are right. I better learn quick!
6. Architecture. Vineyards, beautiful towns, cobble stone streets, tiny windows with colorful shutters. It really does look like all the best pictures I've seen of South of France.