Sick Week: General Thoughts on France

I’ve been asked three times today if I like France.
So here, since I haven’t done anything fun or interesting this week on account of being sick, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on a few things I love and don’t love about France as we end my second month abroad.
  1. Almost immediately, I was struck by the number of artisanal cheeses available. Everywhere. It’s insane. At home, the choice between mozzarella and parmesan was the hardest cheese decision (de-cheese-ion? cheese-ision? anyway) I’d have to make. Here, there are cheeses I have never heard of. Specifically, emmental. What is this? What does it taste like? What wine does it pair with? These are the real hard-hitting questions I have about French culture. I’ve started a love affair with goat cheese and croissants that I’m certain will last the rest of my life. I’m pretty sure they’ll put my love of goat cheese and croissants in the two-volume biography I’m sure they’ll write about me.

    (As a result, I’ve gained quite a lot of weight and no amount of walking to school rather than taking the metro will cure me of my obsession with goat cheese. And Nutella. Which, here, they sell in the refrigerator aisle so it has the consistency of icing rather than a spread. But that’s neither here nor there.)

  1. Second thing I loved immediately is, of course, the architecture. In Atlanta, very few things are old, and if they are old, they’re  either super haunted plantation houses or the Clermont and either way, you should stay away. So to come here, where some statues date back to Ancient Rome and the cobblestones are older than my country’s independence is really strange. Seeing places you’d only ever imagined existed on a really aesthetic Tumblr post makes it seem like the world is enormous, like if this exists, what else have I been missing?
  1. Third thing I’ve loved is how absolutely freezing it is. Nothing like going numb within three minutes of being outside. And nothing can beat getting caught in the rain on a sunny day. Really reminds me of Georgia’s weather patterns, but without the humidity that makes it somewhat bearable.
  1.  Fourth and full offense, but the French do not know how to design a building. The layout of the university I’m attending is so confusing, the professor of Greek and Latin didn’t know where the classics department was. Every grocery store groups its food in the weirdest ways.
  2. Also, they sell vitamins individually, which is absolutely insane.
  3. And if you’re sick, they’ll prescribe you one medicine for each symptom instead of just one that treats everything.
  4. And you never go grocery shopping just once a week. You have to make like a million little stops for fruit or tea or snacks or bread throughout the week until you’re left standing in the line at Carrefour at four o’clock on a Tuesday wondering what it’s all for, why we buy so much stuff and consume it all just to stay alive long enough to buy more stuff and then the cashier looks at you like he’s never seen a human being speak English at that volume. And he probably hasn’t. Which is valid.
  5. Amazon takes forever to ship here. I will never take Amazon Prime in America for granted ever again after waiting a month for a book I needed for a class.
  6. A lot of people here are genuinely fascinated by America. I thought that whole age of thinking America was actually great ended back when it was like, totally new and nobody knew what it was or what it would be. But no, people here really do want to visit America. Some of them have states they want to visit and everything. (None of them are Georgia, by the way.) It’s total bizarre to have my Polish friend Paulina come up to me and say, “I’ve always loved studying America but now that I can talk to a real American, I have so many questions!” It’s been an interesting lesson in patriotism. I think I’m prouder of my country now than before I came here.
  7. French parties are insane and I do not recommend them. Carnaval was really intense and very few clubs or bars here open before 11 PM. Do not attempt unless you’re really into having a crazy experience. If you’re like me, and you’re not, don’t worry. Lille– and I suspect most of France but I haven’t done the appropriate research– has a lot of quieter venues you can scope out with a couple of friends if you just want to talk and hang out for a few hours before you catch the midnight metro back to your dorm to write a blog post for your friends back home.
This post turned out to be more complaints than I thought it would be, but really, I’m having a great time here. You can walk everywhere and if it’s a nice day, it’s especially beautiful and if it’s not a nice day, then you feel like you’re in the Lizze McGuire movie so either way, you’re winning. Send me your good vibes so I can get better and see more of the city. In the meantime, I’ll be here, drowning myself in croissants and goat cheese.

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