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Caught in the Rain.


So I get it. There are tons of things in my French life that I will never understand or shall I say, will never fully sink into my thick American skull. For example, when do I spice up a sentence with a little plus-que-parfait action in place of the plain old vanilla passé compose? I don’t know, I just kind of wing it. And in the process of my cowboy approach to the French language, it's almost certain that I sound like an idiot. Aside from the language, as well as little things like getting used to the fact that when a repairman comes to my house, it’s almost always guaranteed that what he came for will not be fixed during that trip, and that it will take several more. There are a handful of distinctions that exist uniquely in my life in Paris that my brain just doesn't want to get on board with.

Here they are in all their glory:

Let's start with the washer machines. I'll never forget my first trip to a French Laundromat near my first apartment in the 15th. I happily dropped the clothes in the machine, put in my two euro piece and returned home. After watching an episode of the L Word (roughly 43 minutes), I hurriedly ran down stairs to retrieve my clothing fearful that they had been sitting in the machine for about 10 minutes past its cycle. Well, if being late is fashionable in Paris, I was last season's garbage bags because not only was I early, I was about an hour and a half early. I sat in a Laundromat on Boulevard de Grenelle in stained pink sweatpants and a grey thrift store sweater not realizing that the washing machine cycles in France run three times longer than they do in America. Having my clothes tossed and turned for 2 and a half hours in a machine is something that I will never, ever understand and almost always forget as I put in a load of wash an hour before I have to be somewhere.

After living in Paris for over three years, you'd think that I've gotten the memo that from time to time it tends to rain here and to always leave the house with an umbrella. Nope, I haven't and about once a week, I find myself stuck in the rain or worst, the mist that makes me look like disco days Diana Ross. I don’t have her bone structure or her ego to pull it off, so I just look sloppy and unkempt.

I love how proactive France is on recycling and going green, so much that the option of plastic grocery bags isn't even available in most super markets. The only choice one has is to purchase one of their reusable bags that are conveniently located at the check out (petits malins!). Do you know how many times I have left those little bags at home? It’s always halfway through my shopping experience that I realize that I don’t have anything to bring my goodies home in and am forced to buy the bags provided at a low cost upon check out. This has happened so often that I have a massive collection of those little reusable Monoprix bags in our kitchen cupboard. Why don't you just put on in each of your handbags? Excellent idea that my "brain" also won't let me get around to. Hey, since we're blaming it for everything in this post...

While we’re on the topic of supermarkets, let’s talk about my inadequacies of purchasing something as simple as chopped hamburger meat. I don't think I will ever remember which slab of steak haché is better; the one with 5% M.G or the one with 15% M.G. I'm often found standing in the meat aisle staring off into oblivion as I rapidly comb through past conversations I've had with French friends and exes who have tried to pound into my memory which piece is better. M.G stands for matière grasse which is just fancy French talk for “fat”. Therefore it should be obvious that I would want ground meat with only 5% fat over the piece with 15%. But not so fast! My brain then tricks me and tells me that M.G stands for "moins gras" (less fat) so I end up buying what I think is 15% less fat and return home proudly, wagging my tail with a packet of lard. Maybe after writing it out, I will finally get it. Doubtful...

And finally, the one thing in Paris that I can safely call the bane of my existence here, especially being a person without a smart phone, those damn door codes. Do you know that when you open my wallet, there's a mini filing system of tiny pieces of papers of apartment building Parisian door codes? Because apartment buzzers aren't common here (do they even exist?) I have been left standing outside of friends' buildings for tens of minutes waiting for a neighbor to come or go - who then suspiciously lets me in - because I mindlessly forgot to jot the front door code down. With a passion, I hate this system and buying a smart phone just so I can enter buildings in Paris to me seems absurd. I also don't have the financial flexibility for that kind of luxury at the moment, but that's for another post.

While I'd say that these nuances at times have become thorns in my side, I'm grateful that I even have the opportunity to experience them. Living abroad truly is living a second (or for some people a third or forth) life where even years after arrival, you're still discovering what makes living overseas so special...even if it means occasionally getting caught in the rain.

Bon week-end! 

30 comments:

  1. hook, line, and sinker--all a fun read.

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  2. LOL! I have been there exactly with the M.G. :) It was only after my first year that I figured out what it stood for. And even then - to be honest with you - I'm not sure if it has made a difference in terms of flavour. I still think brand and cut probably mean more, but the vocabulary linked to that is still something I'm grappling with!

    Best
    Milsters

    (www.littlepiecesoflight.com)

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  3. It takes a long time to get used to all the idiosyncrasies of another country, it's not easy. But I think you're doing great and have adapted beautifully. You're already a French girl in many ways. And it may sound very cliché' (sorry for that) but you're young, in love and in Paris! Don't let the petty things frustrate you much, you've already been through a lot.

    I know you're not complaining and are just sharing your real day to day life in Paris with all the good and not so good, and I love it! Thanks again for your insight on what Parisian life is, not always as glamorous as some think.
    Best,
    Sylvia S.

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    1. I'm not frustrated at all. I relish in these differences. That's what makes life so interesting here, I'm constantly discovering new things! Plus, I like to sound off about stuff like this to encourage others to share their experiences and opinions. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one that things an almost 3 hour laundry cycle is a bit excessive!

      I'm glad you enjoyed the post and my sometimes (most of the time?) less than glamourous Parisian life! : )

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  4. Not to rub it in, but so pleased to have my own washing machine! That's strange you don't have buzzers in Paris, everyone I know here does, so they're not 'un-French' or something. My conversation with myself about steak haché usually revolves around the 15% being cheaper and should I spring for the 5% or stand next to the pan and scoop the fat out with a spoon? Ha ha, being poor rocks!

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    1. I do have my own washing machine and it's still loud and takes forever! I'm glad my laundromat days are half over. I still run down the street to dry them for ultimate fluffiness.

      Based on the comments, I'm thinking that the door codes are a "Paris thing". Why, because Paris is so rough and tough that we need extra security? Well now I feel like a little princess in the castle with this extra security!

      Good point on the prices. I should have realized that less fat would be more expensive but sometimes you never know, especially here. What if the fat was considered a delicacy?
      :)

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  5. Maybe you're having one of these?;)

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv1tMioGgXI

    Mine are sometimes off the charts;)

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    1. I really want to watch this but youtube won't load. We're in the process of quitting our Freebox for a better service. We are using free city internet for the time being. Once again, changing our internet provider is another thing that is a huge process. The guy came twice already....

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  6. Regarding storing digicodes, what kind of phone do you have? can't you create another entry for the same person in your phone's address book? (i.e. you have Jane D and her phone number listed. can't you then create Jane D1 and store the person's digicode in the field where phone numbers usually go?)

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    1. Hahaha what kind of phone do I have? A phone that doesn't recognize the correct time as I'm 7 hours and 43 minutes ahead, but according to my phone this is local Paris time.

      So storing door codes doesn't seem like an option as I have tried. I do need to upgrade though, if nothing to preserve my sanity!

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  7. Je suis toujours surpris ,d,entendre que des américains se soucie ,de leur manque de connaissance de la langue de Molière.Il est vrai que les Français sont maladroit,on a tendance a corriger les fautes de Français .Mais en général, on pense rendre services .J,ai connue ,une jeune Américaines en France,Qui pensait que l,on se moquait d,elle quand elle parlait Français .Ce n,était pas le cas .Parler Français na rien avoir .Le plus important c,est d,essayer .Ne le répéter pas, parler français avec un accent américain est sexy .Les Français sont mauvais en langues étrangères .C,est pour cela que nous sommes plus tolérant que vous pensé par rapport a votre niveau de français.

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    1. Je vous remercie de votre commentaire. Je suis tellement d'accord. Le plus important c'est d'essayer! C'est ça!

      Dans mon expérience, les Français ont été très aimables et encourageants concernant mon français et mes fautes. En fait, ce sont les autres americains qui ne sont pas toujours sympas! Ils aiment corriger! LOL! C'est bizarre, hein?

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  8. The laundry thing drives me crazy too! I don't understand why there is such a huge time-in-the-machine discrepancy between our two countries. Why is there's so long, or ours so short?

    As for door codes, I've been lucky to know people who have "interphones" - the apartment buzzer thingies, but I don't live in Paris!

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    1. We have interphones here too...just AFTER you get passed the first door code. It's maximum security here in Paris, I tell you.

      As for the laundry, good grief! It's an all day affair just to do two loads of wash!! I don't get it.

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  9. Glad I'm not the only one who cowboys the French language, has problems ordering meat and misses being able to buzz people in their buildings!

    Do you still forget to push the button/ lift the handle in French trams/subways b/c you're used to the NYC subway automatic doors? I have this moment as I don't take the tram that often.

    A friend of mine was staying in Croix-Rousse, in Lyon, and the laundromat was also a cozy cafe with free wifi! I bet you'd love that! (I have a w-machine at home and it takes about an hour or so! Good heads-up w/ French laundromats!)

    My smartphone was under 20 euros with my Orange plan- I wish you had one because I'm selfish and want to see you show up on my uber-hipster Instagram feed!

    I loved hearing about your experiences with French idiosyncrasies! Thanks for sharing~

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    1. I actually do the reverse now. When I'm back in New York, my finger points to the door (to press "the button") when we pull into a station. I was with a friend and she was like "why are you pointing at the door?" It was pretty funny.

      Omg. A laundromat/cafe. That sounds so kitch and cute!! Did you ever see the movie "Secretary" where there was a laundry mat/bar? I always thought that was a cool and fun idea!

      Hahaha, I'll get a smartphone one of these days..it's not high on the priority list but I do want one eventually. I want to be included in the Instagram fun too!! I'll let you know as soon as I'm connected...in a year or two. ; )

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  10. haha this is great!

    I hate how longe washers run, it was the same in Spain. Combined with the fact that dryers are about just as scarce as mimosas, I always had nothing to wear or put on damp jeans

    Those door codes are interesting, is that just a paris thing? I've never seen that before

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    1. Oh is it the same in Spain? So it's a European thing! The dryers are really bad here too! It takes like 4 cycles to get fluffy, hot, dry clothes.

      Aye, wet jeans are the worst. They're super tight too!

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  11. Too funny. Tomorrow I'll be calling a plumber to come for the third time to fix the same light (I know... plumber? light? You'd think it'd be an electrician, but non, not in Paris!)

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    1. Yeah, that IS weird. I do remember how many people and how long it took to change your light bulbs that one afternoon. THAT was hilarious. It was such a process.

      We had the plumber over yesterday to fix a leak in the bathroom. After we made the rdv, we realized we had a second leak in the kitchen. Being American, I figured it was no biggie for him to fix both during the same trip. Ha. ha. ha.

      Seb laughed at my logic. Because the kitchen leak wasn't on his list, he wouldn't even look at it. I now have to make another rdv with the same company to come back next week for the kitchen. Gotta laugh, right? : )

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  12. I'm with you on every one of these French vagueries. Their washing machines are quite existentialist and not very eco-friendly! But boy are my clothes clean after a 2.5 hour cycle! (I have one cycle on my machine with is FOUR hours long. And ironically called the "eco" cycle. I have a difficult time seeing how using four hours of electricity and water are planet-friendly.)

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    1. Hahaha! Not eco friendly at all! I never use that cycle and now that you tell me that it runs for 4 hours, I'm glad I don't! That would drive me insane. Geez. The process is way to long, not to mention the noise! It's so loud! My apartment vibrates during the intense spin cycle. I'll never get washing machines here..never, never, never!

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  13. I have a whole hallway full of those 're-usable' bags, all sitting ready to go out to the car for next time. Except then then next time I just go straight from work, bypass the hallway and have to buy more. Merde.

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    1. Hahaha me too!! It feels like SUCH A WASTE to buy new ones, doesn't it? I get so annoyed with myself! I now go back home and retrieve them which has been really annoying. I'm hoping this will get me to finally remember to take them with me!

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  14. i will never ever understand why it takes so long to do laundry in Europe. It's like a freaking laundry marathon.

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    1. It takes for.ever. For.ever. Like the Sand Lot...

      I'm glad it's not just me!!

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  15. Omg yes the washer machine!! I experienced this last week for the first time. I thought something was wrong with it then I realized it was "normal" for it to take that long.

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    1. It just keeps going and going and going. And just when you think it's over...nope it spins for another 10 minutes! I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds this unnecessary! 30 minutes should be enough, right?!

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  16. OMG couldn't help but laugh out loud about Matière Grasse= moins gras. Never thought about it in that way, and the laundromats:) Really miss My French Life.

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