There are many things I (we) like about living in France, especially in a ‘smallish’ village, so it was difficult to narrow it down to a handful or two. Here are my top picks in no particular order.
1. Everyone is greeted. Upon entering a café, boulangerie, etc. , everyone is welcomed with a “Bonjour’ followed by madame/monsieur. If you are friends with the person, expect the customary le bise as well (three in Pézenas). Upon leaving, it’s “au revoir, bonne journee.” Being American, I add a wave to both scenarios. I’ve been shocked by the number of people who wave back. It must be like a yawn; it’s contagious.
2. Many French people speak more English than they initially share. In our case, we have found that folks who claim to speak zero English suddenly find their “English tongue” once they discover we’re American. There are questions, and they want to chat. It’s always a surprise, and I love it!
3. Life comes to a screeching halt for lunch at 12:00 or 12:30. Shops, businesses, public offices, promptly close and lock the door at the appointed time. Most businesses reopen at 2 pm (14:00) or 2:30 (14:30), but some reopen at a later time, if at all—there seems to be no rhyme or reason. At first, it was frustrating. Very frustrating. Now, I try to do my shopping, errands, etc. before noon. I’ve adapted to the rhythm of the village.
4. Stores are closed on Sunday (and many are closed on Monday). The major grocery stores are open Sunday until 12:30, and then they also close. I actually like this. Back in the day, stores in the US were closed on Sunday, and we survived. The closing forces Ray and I to shop on a timely basis, and it eliminates mindless wandering. Not that I would ever do that…
5. The healthcare system includes resident ex-pats, and it is generous. Here’s a link to a previous post regarding healthcare.
6. Café life is alive and well. You own your seat in a café. Once you’ve placed your order, there’s no need to worry about being rushed from your table. The table is yours as long as it is required. It could be as short as 5 minutes for a quick coffee or several hours if the weather is beautiful and you are enjoying the company of new friends.
7. The presentation is everything. Years ago, while living in Luzern, I became aware of the importance of presentation. Little ‘things’ were wrapped with care and attention as if they were priceless relics; items from the bakery were almost too pretty to open. Years later, in Pézenas, I still get excited when I open a beautifully wrapped box from my favorite patisserie.
8. Our quality of life has improved dramatically. We’ve been forced to slow down whether we want to or not. I’ve always been a ‘go fast or go home’ (type A?) type of person. Coincidently, Ray is the exact opposite. Guess who has adapted quickly to the rhythm of life in the south of France? Moi, I’ve come around, and now I appreciate my newfound pace of life.
Well, there you have it—my top picks. I wonder if they’ll change over the years.
Next week, we head to Nice (and surrounding area) for Carnaval. The theme this year is The King of Fashion and, I envision King Karl and King Yves. Now, that is one Carnaval I am genuinely excited to see!