Friday, October 4, 2013

Culture Shock Vol. 2

Last weekend we visited a gorgeous little mountain village, Annecy, which is around 150 km from Lyon in the Alps. It´s a picture perfect paradise for pensioners and tourists. It´s a quiet little town, with not much happening, but definitely worth a visit, if for nothing else than the crystal clear lake. We rented a boat with Frenchie, and cruised around the lake. I love sailing and everything water related, and I´m pretty sure the boat ride was my favorite part of my stay in France/travels so far. The lake is situated between mountains, so the views couldn´t have been better. The sun was shining, I had the wind in my hair, cruising around the lake in the best company, forgetting the rest of the world for a while and just enjoying from the bottom of my heart. It´s moments like these that you´ll remember forever. 
As much as I love living in France, I bump into some "issues" every now and then. "Issues" being the clash of the French culture and my way of doing things. I though it would be useful to get rid of some of my culture shock frustration, and write down a list of  things I bump into often.

1) France is a slow country. S-L-O-W.
Take for example the metro. I´m used to the fast pace of Helsinki, where you have to run to catch the metro if you can hear it coming. Not here. There´s plenty of time to still grab a fresh baguette and a cup of coffee from the nearby stand, when the metro is approaching the platform. Besides the metro, people here tend to walk very slow, which once again, I´m not used to. In Finland people like to be in a hurry, and even if your not, you at least have to pretend to be by walking fast. Here in France, people don´t share the same sense of having to be in a constant hurry. Here they most often walk at a slow pace in the middle of the street blocking everything. So when I´m trying to rush down the street, it´s needless to say the frustration level rises as I´m trying to avoid bumping into the slow masses preventing me of hurrying.

2) Bureaucracy. 
Everything is made difficult, sometimes almost impossible. I think these people get some sick satisfaction out of seeing other people struggle. To get a public transportation card with a student discount, I need about eight different papers, and this is one of the easy tasks. First you need certain papers from the school. To get those papers, I have to visit the administrations office which I usually have time for around noon, other times I´m in class. As it so happens, the administration office is closed for two hours from 12-14 for their lunch break, so good luck trying to get the papers. After I have all documents needed from school, I need a certificate from a French person to prove, that I indeed do live in France. Since it is not enough that you have a rental agreement or something similar. The French want a certificate from another French person stating, that she can be trusted. Then you need several other copies of different papers and pictures and passports, and finally you have all the papers needed. This is where the fun really starts. In order to get the travel card, you have to stand in a line for a couple of hours. The office usually closes at 7pm, but at 6.30pm there´s still a two hour long line.  

3) Eating out for lunch with celiac disease. 
I´m basically allergic to all wheat- related products, and have to follow strict a gluten-free diet. Dinners are not that difficult, but try finding food that doesn´t include wheat in some form for a quick lunch break, and you´ll know what I´m talking about. The bright side, I won´t gain weight since all the yummy pain au chocolat and croissants will stay on their shelves. Conclusion: trying to grab a quick lunch during a break between classes = run to Starbucks and get a grande soy-latte and a small fruit salad. 

4) The Dog Poop.
Although Lyon is a beautiful city, and France is a beautiful country, the streets often smell and are filled with dog poop. Is it too much to ask to clean the streets properly and not just hose them with water every morning (which is mostly useless)?

I´m sure France and I will become lifelong friends, and these are just small bumps in the way. I´m on a fast track to learn the French way of living, but I´m strongly and proudly holding on to my Scandinavian and Finnish roots as well (Finland is not a part of Scandinavia, in case you were wondering). 
My best friend arrived in Lyon a couple of days ago, so we´re off to enjoy the city (and doing internship applications for Paris). My dad is also here for a business trip, so a it´s a busy week seeing all my loved ones.

À bientôt

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