Cultural Differences

I’m too lazy to make these into paragraphs, and I figure it’ll be easier to read them in bullet points, anyways. In no particular order:

  • If you struggle with speaking English in America, or have an accent, too bad. You get judged and shunned. I’ve had people here start speaking in English to me, but I haven’t figured out whether they’re doing it because my French is so atrocious they don’t want to listen to it anymore, because they’re taking pity on me, or if they’re being nice.
  • You can cross streets anywhere. You don’t even have to find a crosswalk or wait until the pedestrian light turns green. Just use common sense and don’t get run over.
  • My name gets pronounced differently—it’s more like Saréna. And nobody butchers the pronunciation of my last name.
  • At grocery stores, you don’t get plastic bags for free. You have to buy them or bring your own bag, and you have to bag your own items. Also, you can start eating or drinking something before you buy it.
  • People smoke a lot more. Sigh.
  • You can’t just walk into a bank—you have to press a bell, wait for the light to turn green, then pull open the door and walk into a room where you’re between the outside doors and the doors that lead into the bank itself. Then you press a second button, wait, and walk into the bank.
  • People here drive stick shift, so they have to be much more skilled at driving. I legitimately watched my contact parallel park into the tiniest parking space on the sidewalk with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the clutch.
  • AC isn’t omnipresent. (We Americans are so spoiled.)
  • Classes only happen once a week, and they’re also really long. To me, dividing a three-hour class into one-hour periods over three days makes more sense than having a three-hour long class. By the next week, I’ve nearly forgotten what we learned, and I’ll admit that my attention wanders off after two hours (sorry, professors). And if you think that R-MC classes are disorganized, wait until you hear about how I have to change classrooms four times for one class. Or how class times are changed unexpectedly, without warning, and you don’t find out until the minute before class was supposed to start. Or how I’ve already missed 10+ hours of one class.
  • Notebooks are weird. I managed to find a pack of 5 composition-like notebooks (they’re softer, and stapled together rather than sewn together), and they’re lined like graph paper. While we’re on the subject of paper, the standard size is about 21×30 cm—a little bit thinner and nearly an inch taller than the standard US 8.5×11 inches.
  • Peanut butter doesn’t exist here. (Okay, I rescind that comment—tiny jars of Skippy exist in Monoprix for 4.59 euros, so they might as well not exist. I’m so eating peanut butter straight from the jar as soon as I get back home.)
  • The shower’s annoying. You press a knob in order to turn on the water, and have to keep pressing it because the water turns off after a few minutes. Like, I’m sorry I haven’t learned how to wash my hair with one hand, hold the shower nozzle with the other hand, and push the button with my third hand?
  • Keyboards on French computers are different, which makes typing difficult when you’re used to the standard QWERTY keyboard. They start with AZERTY, and you have to press the equivalent of shift when you want to type a number. I still haven’t figured out how on earth to make the @ sign with a French keyboard.
  • Sadly, public toilets are neither ubiquitous nor free. They usually cost 0.50 euros, and you have to actually hunt them down—you can’t just walk into a supermarket or gas station and use the bathroom.
  • You can bring dogs into supermarkets and onto buses.
  • Most of the time, when you go inside a small shop or boutique, the workers follow you like hawks, eyeing you like you’re going to grab something and bolt without paying. Also, there are so many stores in Nice that I swear it’d be impossible to visit them all in a year.
  • Men work at Sephora.

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