Somehow (actually, I know how. It was that whole time marches on thing) I have reached the end of my semester in Paris. Final papers have been written, final exams have been taken, my mastery of the French language has reached its peak and will now steadily decline until all I can remember is “Je veux une omelette de fromage.” And, most importantly, by the middle of next week I will be getting off a plane in Detroit and going home to a Christmas tree, some apple cider, and my family.
It seems only right to do a summary of deep, meaningful life lessons that I learned during my semester abroad, and how I have been forever changed as a person. But I don’t want to do that, so instead I will lay down a blanket statement about French culture and then move on to making fun of the French language one last time.
First off: France is a wonderful place that has managed to largely preserve a way of life that is at once endlessly charming and largely impractical. French people are kind, helpful, proud, and they will make fun of you if you have an accent. They might benefit from being slightly more organized, punctual, or polite, but then of course they would not be French. And no one wants a bunch of un-French French people running around having identity crises.
Now. Moving on.
One of the things I will miss most about France is, believe it or not, grocery shopping. I have found grocery shopping here to be amusing and even ridiculous – it is a familiar thing rendered totally different just by crossing the Atlantic Ocean. For instance. Things you can buy at a grocery store in France: refrigerated breakfast pancakes; unrefrigerated milk; a whole, skinned rabbit complete with eyeballs and teeth. Things you cannot buy at a grocery store in France: bacon; syrup; gum that costs less than four Euros.
The snack aisle is also significantly smaller here, but features a truly stunning array of potato chip flavors. My personal favorites are “Mystère” (Mystery), “Poulet Roti” (rotisserie chicken), and “Nature”(salted). The first two because they are truly absurd, and the third because it seems to suggest that the potatoes popped out of the ground sliced into chips and lightly salted, ready for bagging.
In a similar vein (the vein of the myriad sillinesses of the French language, in case you weren’t paying attention) I will also miss the signage of Paris, because something about it is just quintessentially French. There is a park across the street from me with a pond that is populated by scary geese, and around the pond are signs that say, “if you like the birds, do not feed them.” In the US, these signs would say “Do not feed the wildlife,” but in Paris you are only implored to refrain from feeding the geese if you like them. If you don’t like them, you are at perfect liberty to poison them with your nasty human food. Freedom of choice at its finest.