Having been in France for almost a month now (not quite), Dave and I have some interesting observations about our new home. For example, cell phone covers are more like flip covers that fold down and they are everywhere. When people are talking on their phones, it looks like they are talking on a cell phone from circa 1995.
Speaking of the 90s, does anyone remember MC Hammer? Because Europe is apparently where he sent his signature “Hammer pants” once he was done with them. Everyone has a pair. Guy, girl, doesn’t matter. They are unisex here. And bonus points if they are white. White clothing is very fashionable. Exemplified by that store that only sells white clothing.
But back to the Hammer pants. I mean, I guess I get it. They are pretty comfortable-looking. I don’t know how I feel about the elastic at the ankles, but it is clear that looking like Aladdin from the waist down is fashionable here, and since it does seem comfy, I might be inclined to get on board. Maybe Dave will too.
Also quite fashionable is a plain, white t-shirt with a giant American celebrity mugshot screen-printed in black and white. Not necessary police mugshot, mind you, but a huge head shot, taking up the entire front of the shirt. Not just certain celebrities, either. I’ve seen a wide range, from Lindsay Lohan, to Biggie Smalls, to Bob Dylan. It’s quite encompassing, really.
While we’re on the subject of clothing, if any male friends or family members plan on visiting, please make sure to pack your capri pants. These are the pants that don’t quite reach your ankles, or perhaps look like the type of pants one might wear to the beach and roll up for fear of getting them wet when wading in the ocean. And it is also fairly common for men to have purses man bags, or a satchel, according to the movie The Hangover (which is called Very Bad Trip in France- ha!) For your reference, I give you this:
On our trips to the grocery stores and markets, I have also learned that milk and eggs are unrefrigerated! I can’t even begin to tell you how much this weirds me out. I guess I can get on board with the eggs, because really, how much refrigeration does a chicken provide whilst sitting on them? But the milk products? I told Dave I just couldn’t do it. He is somewhat used to this, having been to Italy to visit family and living over there during college, but I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Plus, warm/room temp milk? Gross. It brings back terrible memories of my mom paying the school 25 cents a day to provide milk after recess in elementary school. I hated it, because it got put out at the beginning of recess and sat on tables until we came back in, 25 minutes later. And, all the other kids had juice boxes and capri suns and those were way cooler. But I digress.
They do actually have milk in the cold boxes, which will be what I buy (Dave doesn’t drink milk, so it’s dealer’s choice, as it were), but the other day, my flexibility (and gag reflex) was tested when we had an issue with coffee creamer. When we first arrived, we bought (what we thought) was cream to put in our coffee. It was in a pouch with a pour spout, but refrigerated with all some of the other milk products, and we thought it was cream so we took it home. Then we translated the packaging later (dumb move) and turns out, it was heavy cream. Ok, not ideal, but manageable. I open it to use the first time? Sour cream. Fail.
On one of our subsequent grocery visits, we can’t find cream in the cold box anywhere. Dave looks over at the UNrefrigerated shelf and sees the demi-creme, which seems more appropriate for coffee than a baked potato, and I had to suck it up and go with it. Gah. I’m perfectly aware that it’s vacuum-sealed and fine to drink without it being stored cold (prior to opening, that is. It’s currently in my fridge, where it will remain until gone.) I just can’t wrap my mind around the fact that it doesn’t need refrigeration until opening.
So right. Unrefrigerated milk weirds me out.
On the topic of groceries, it’s mandatory you bring your own grocery bag to the store, or you can buy one for like, 19 cents. If you don’t come prepared and don’t buy a bag, you had better hope your arms can carry a lot because the stores don’t provide this. This is something I’ve been meaning to get into the habit of doing in America anyway so I’m hoping that the forced practice will make it second-nature and carry over when we’re back in the US.
Other things that will take some getting used to? Nutella is everywhere. It’s the spread of choice. Forget cream cheese, butter, peanut butter or anything else for your toast, desserts and bagels. It’s all about the Nutella, which is sold by the gallon. We also found a place with delicious-flavored baked goods (more on that later) which sold Nutella torte slices. It’s essentially hazelnut chocolate, so I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just everywhere. Hazelnut in general, really. Or noisette as it is called. You really have to read packaging carefully because sometimes when you think you’re buying something with chocolate, it’s really hazelnut-infused.
Also an adjustment will be the no dryer thing. As in, we rig up a clothes line between window and door handles to line-dry our freshly washed clothes. I don’t mind this so much, except the clothes are extremely rough and stiff, which is less than ideal for ahem, delicates, so I have requested that we invest in some fabric softener. Dave, on the other hand, is a huge fan of line-dried clothes (note to self, if I ever have to take his clothes to the dry cleaners, make sure to request heavy starch).
Speaking of delicates, there are lingerie stores on every corner. Seriously. I’m not even exaggerating. Our neighborhood has seven that I can name off the top of my head. And they all want like 80€ for a nightie.
Which brings me to the Euro (€) monetary system. They like their coins here in Europe. So much so, that they have not only a one cent coin, but a two cent coin too. Along with the standard five and ten cent coins as well. And a 20 cent. Oh and a 50 cent. AND a coin worth 1€. And a coin with 2€. Yea. Like I said. They like their coins. The smallest bill is for 5€ and then there’s a 10€, a 20€ and a 50€. There’s probably more but I’m not made of money here, people!
I’ve also decided that, in an effort to earn more of France’s lovely monetary system, I should open a bakery here. Mostly because NONE OF THE BAKERIES HAVE DESSERTS! I know. I’m as shocked as you all are. Don’t get me wrong, they have wonderful pastries, breads and croissants (muffins too but they want 3.50€ a pop and that’s not gonna happen when I can get a croissant for 70 cents!). But there are no cookies, cakes, pies or brownies to be had. Apparently I’m expected to get an apple fritter in the morning and save it for when I get a craving for something delicious at 9pm at night. But of course, anyone who knows me knows that there’s zero shot of that delicious pastry lasting til then.
Finally, I have to talk about garbage disposal and service here. Basically, the short version is that you take your own bag of garbage and put it in a public dumpster. There is no household garbage service, really. Maybe in the neighborhoods/suburbs of France (is there such a thing?) they do it differently, but when I asked our previous landlord Bernard what to do with our sack of trash, he told me to just toss it into the first dumpster I see. Odd, because I feel like I’m getting away with something certainly frowned upon in the US. They have recycling dumpsters too, but those are really hard to find. Unless you don’t specifically need one, then they are everywhere. But if you go back to the aforementioned dumpster, there are no guarantees that it will still be there. So weird.
Given that throwing your garbage away in communal dumpsters is appropriate and even standard operating procedure, it still amazes me how many people just toss waste on the ground. Papers, wrappers, whatever. Don’t want it? Just toss it on the ground. Gah! It drives me crazy. Not as crazy as the people who let their dogs poop on the street, then walk away (also standard operating procedure) but still. Dave told me that when walking, now that it’s fall, I really need to be careful to avoid piles of leaves. They are like landmines, people.
Along the lines of discussing gross things, I should go ahead and mention that yes, everyone smokes here. I’m pretty sure I saw a 10-year-old kid smoking at the tram station today on my way to the store. But luckily, our places of residence haven’t been bad, nor have I noticed it all that much. Every once in a while, it gets to be a bit much, but it’s usually when I’m sitting outside at a cafe or something. Otherwise, I haven’t swollen up like a blowfish with red, watery eyes, so I got that goin’ for me, which is nice*.
(*Funnier if said in a Bill Murray-Caddyshack voice)
Now that you’ve missed out on a good portion of your day reading my novel, I’m off to make dinner. On a stove that I’m less than comfortable working with. I told Dave that if I have no eyebrows when he gets home from school, he is solely responsible for cooking from now til eternity.
Wish me luck.