Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cultural Differences

It's interesting to see how people do things over here, especially with regard to child-rearing. Although we have certainly seen children out with their folks, the only ones in strollers are babies—certainly not Anna's age. People here walk a lot, and that means the kids walk too. None of them seem unhappy about it either, despite what feels to us like bitter cold. Anna, OTOH, who is perfectly happy to jump and run in circles around our house for hours, whines immediately if we need/want her to walk more than about half a block, regardless of the weather.

Another difference is with regard to schedules. Kids as young as 4 are in school from 8am to 4:45 pm daily. This means that at 5 they come home for le goûter (snack, the only one of the day I might add) and then join their parents for dinner around 8pm. Our neighbors invited us over for dinner next week and it took quite a lot of back and forth to communicate that by 8pm Anna needed to be in bed. They kindly offered to have her sleep in the room with us while we're dining—that would be with 4 adults and 3 other kids. And I guess maybe a French kid could do that, but there's no way my kid's going down in those circumstances.

It really does make me realize how we've come to let our kids change the way we would otherwise do things—at least some of us have (ahem). I honestly don't know if that's for the better or worse. OTOH, it would be great to be able to go over to friends houses for dinner until 10pm with Anna in tow, instead of being dependent on getting a sitter. And it would surely be nice if she'd walk more instead of being pushed in her comfy ride while we're huffing and puffing up hills in the freezing cold. But would it be better for her?

There are so many differences that we're experiencing right now compared with our normal day-to-day life: what we're eating, how much we're walking, the amount of family time, the lack of television, the amount of cultural activities, the lack of the usual hustle and bustle of all those things that just have to get done. The few chores we have here are certainly more labor intensive, but the pace in general is SO much more relaxed that it doesn't matter. I wonder what we'll be able to take back with us, if anything? Well, vin chaud for damn sure! And croissants with fresh chevre and homemade apricot jam every morning for breakfast, as long as we've had to walk a mile or two to obtain them! After all, I've got my culinary priorities right anyway.


Beverly said...

Hi, David, Julie and Anna, When Larry and I took our dog, Mouse, to Paris, we enjoyed the cultural differences regarding dogs. Of course, that trip was my seventh to Paris, so I knew what to expect or I wouldn't have taken her. During our two weeks, we were never separated from Mouse. Air France, restaurants, stores, hotels were more than dog friendly. I also was pleased to meet French people and use my French nearly constantly. Everyone wanted to meet Mouse. Larry has a website,,where "Mouse in Paris" leads to photos of the trip. Beverly

Strongrrl said...

Funny! I've never seen anyone wear their dog like that!

Looks like the weather you had there was much more agréable than what we're having. David says next time we either do a swap in summer or in the southern hemisphere!

tasia said...

This is the first post that actually makes me want to come to France.

Good work.

Strongrrl said...

Really?? Not the ones about Paris?? Well, I'm going to decide to take that as a compliment instead of the Jewish response of "what, you don't like the other posts?". ;-)

tasia said...

Well, I've never been as partial to Paris as I have been to more rural parts of France.


Anonymous said...

Good post.

Comparing San Francisco and Paris, I prefer San Francisco. Granted it's two cultural exceptions in their own country!