Thoughts on France

My time here in France has gone by fast, 5 months already. Winter was a little colder than I expected with temperatures pretty similar to Denmark. I imagined travelling southward halfway across Europe would make winter a lot warmer but it wasn’t so! Thankfully the sun is out a lot more, and it is a lot less windy. The stereotype Northern Europeans have of winter being much warmer in France definitely isn’t true. I do expect summer and spring to be a bit warmer but winter was by and large the same. I can sense spring arriving earlier here though, the landscape and all the plants are all green already. This doesn’t happen in Denmark until late April!

Nevers, view from the top of the Cathedral

There are stereotypes about French people being rude but I do not think that is true. In fact I’ve found French people here to be much warmer and friendlier than Danish people. I do think French people pay a lot more attention to courtesies and formalities than Danish people do though. It is perfectly okay in Denmark to start speaking without a greeting but I think many French people consider it a bit rude not to start with a “bonjour”. I also think the rudeness stereotype mainly arises from language, because one true stereotype is that the French are not too fond of or good at English. Especially if you do not make the small effort to start with a greeting in French.  It is a stark difference compared to my country Denmark where we pretty much discourage foreigners from speaking Danish at all; it is so much easier with English! I do have to agree with the French though that their language is much more pleasant and melodic compared to English. It has a certain pleasant flow that sort of rolls of the tongue easily. The lack of English is also very good for language immersion and you will not have trouble finding people to practice your French with! My French level is also coming along as well, which makes pretty much everything here easier.

The top of Cathedral tower

Further one funny thing I discovered about France is that you only greet the people you meet once a day. In Denmark it is customary to greet each other every time you meet. My colleagues gave me a bit of a funny look the first time this happened. These differences are mostly harmless but they can sometimes be quite funny.

La cathédrale Saint-Cyr-et-Sainte-Julitte de Nevers

Another stereotype that I’ve found to be true is concerning food. French food even from the supermarkets does taste fresher than Danish food. Especially the fruits and vegetables. I think one big reason for this is that more French food is produced and sold locally. I have also visited a restaurant here in Nevers once, courtesy of my boss Isabelle and I have to say it lived fully up to the expectations. I still remember the meal fondly. I’ve also been invited to dinner at my roommates mentors house a couple of times and again the food was great. It was also very French in that after the main course we had a cheese table! Now of course we also eat cheese in Denmark but we do not have a whole course dedicated to it. To me this was quintessentially French; we were drinking wine at the same time as well!

La rue de Nevers

I had an EVS seminar in early December which was also a lot of fun! It was a great experience to meet a lot of young people from all over France who were in the same situation as you. There was a certain student dorm feeling about the whole thing, and you really get to know the people you live with quickly. Narbonne was a nice city as well with a real Mediterranean feel to it. I went there in early December, and we even had a day with 15 degrees and sunshine. A really nice warm spring day in Denmark!  You can really tell the difference between    the different regions of France. To me Narbonne and Nevers are similarly sized but very different cities. They might as well be two cities from different countries. This is very different compared to Denmark, where all the cities pretty much look the same. I do think weather has a big influence on this and I would expect cities in the north like Lille, or Nantes in Brittany to be as different from Nevers as Narbonne was.

All in all France has proven a great country to spend my time in and at the bottom people are not that different from each other. The differences between Danish and French people in the big picture are really not that big. I’ve greatly enjoyed my EVS here in Nevers. Sadly it is half-way over, but I cannot wait for the next following half especially as spring and the according warmer weather is coming along nicely!

Photos by Olesia Yanenko