March 24, 2014

23 Mildly Embarrassing Signs You Lived In France

No matter when you lived there, or for how long, you are always a different person after living in the Hexagon. You can always spot one of us in the grocery store, wandering around in circles, ready to pay cocaine prices for a box of Pim’s. And while some of us are just on a hiatus until we move back to our beloved country, we all have some things in common. Here, 21 signs you used to call France home.

1. You are lured to restaurants and/or grocery stores — even ones entirely across town — at just the possibility of some good bread. You hear a whisper about a place that has a solid baguette, and all you want to do is get there so you can squeeze it, knock on the bottom of it, and then slather it in butter and eat it.

2. On more than one occasion, you have cornered a totally uninterested stranger at a house party to rant about how America needs to step its bread game up, and how you “can’t even eat bagged bread anymore.”

3. The “France is more than just Paris, there are such diverse landscapes and cultures within the country itself” is a well-known speech amongst your circle of friends.

4. Not that you’d make a big deal out of it, but smoking doesn’t really bother you anymore, and you think it’s more than a little ridiculous that even electronic cigarettes are being banned in city parks.

5. That being said, you basically have PTSD from being in too many smoky house parties. Smoking indoors is something you cannot tolerate.

6. Despite the fact that no one cares even a little bit, you have tried to explain French cultural phenomenons many times. “But wait, you have to see Bref! It’s the best thing ever. Oh, and watch this Norman about YouTube comments!! I’ll translate in real time.”

7. Supermarket cheese aisles depress you in a profound, almost existential way.

8. “Sitting outside a cafe and watching people walk by while you nurse an espresso” is in your top 10 favorite activities, and you don’t understand why so many people view it as a waste of time.

9. Good Haussmannian architecture is enough to make you cry out of nostalgia.

10. You have had incredibly vivid dreams about Petit Suisses. (And somehow you’ve never been able to find an appropriate substitute for fromage blanc, and are disgusted when the closest option is “cream cheese.”)

11. Your sentences are occasionally mangled English translations of French phrases or syntax. You say things like, “Are you motivated?” when asking if someone wants to do something, and people just keep rolling with the conversation even though it sounds 32 percent insane.

12. A grand-slam breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and eggs has its place, but you’re not sure it can compare to just a buttered-and-jammed baguette and a cafe au lait. Somehow both of them keep you just as satisfied for just as long, anyway.

13. You no longer have the energy to buy cheap, shitty wine, for so many reasons. The hangover isn’t worth it, it tastes like turpentine, and you know that a 6 dollar bottle of wine does not need to be so disgusting.

14. Even though you know it will make you look like a pompous ass while not in France, you have been known to order the occasional kir.

15. You catch yourself actively avoiding talking about France, or Paris, or your time there, because you know how pretentious it sounds (but come on!! it’s a huge part of your life!!).

16. You can’t stop yourself from saying “aïe!” when you stub your toe, or muttering a French curse word under your breath.

17. When important things are open on a Sunday, or past 7 PM in general, you are still overwhelmed with the novelty of it.

18. When you overhear people speaking French you have to fight the urge to a) eavesdrop on their conversation or b) go insert yourself into the conversation for no reason other than, “Hey, France, what a great country, amirite?”

19. You have to stop yourself from dragging everyone into a thirty-minute lecture when someone makes an offhand joke about how terrible or cowardly or smelly the French are. (If you went to Paris and spoke to people in loud, aggressive English and hit all the tourist spots, then yes, your impression of an entire country is probably not the greatest.)

20. You know there will never again encounter a smell as perfect as “walking in front of the outdoor rotisserie stall while the butcher is scooping roast potatoes and drippings out of the bottom of the pan for a customer.”

21. When you don’t know what to wear on any given day, “entirely black with sunglasses” has become your default setting.

22. The first time you get your non-French medical or insurance bill, you remember how good you had it in France. People know not to get you started on the health care conversation, because you can yell about it for literal hours.

23. When you think about it, the thing you miss the most is the ability to hop on a relatively cheap train and, in a few hours, be in a completely different world — beaches, oceans, seas, fields of lavender — all within the same country. And you knew that, when you got there, you would always have the only things you needed: a strong coffee, some good bread, a newspaper, and somewhere comfortable to sit outside for as long as you wanted. TC mark

image – Paris, Je T’aime