Emma’s Final Blog Post

As my time in France is beginning to come to a close, I have found myself reflecting on some of the more notable and interesting things I’ve learned during my stay that I will take back with me:

  • One of the first things that I picked up on being around the French is that they have pretty stereotypical ideas about American eating habits. For example, during my first lunch with the French students in my class I was asked what I missed most about home. Before I could respond, one of the girls wryly interjected: “Oh McDonalds of course.” I responded, no, I did not miss McDonalds the most. In fact, surprisingly to them, McDonalds did not even make my list. I have become used to variations of this exact conversation. Ironically, I quickly realized that French youth eat McDonalds more often than the Americans I know. Because we have better hamburger places, my friends and I have no reason to go to McDonalds. But in France, especially a small town like Château-Gontier, McDonalds is their only option.
  • At home, I typically have family dinners Sunday through Thursday. On the weekends my family and I often do our own things for lunch and dinner, and we all eat breakfast at different times. But here in France, every meal you eat is a family meal. They’re all the sit down and fully set table kind of meals. Cheese and desert is served at every lunch and dinner, and you can count on bread to be present at every single meal. That’s three times a day, not including goûter (5 pm snack)!
  • We have two water containers in our house. One is a green pitcher that holds a good amount of water and the other is a tall glass bottle. When we set the table to eat, we set out the glass bottle for people to fill their glasses. This didn’t make sense to me because we each have about three glasses of water during the meal, meaning that someone has to go refill the water bottle three times while we eat. The pitcher holds more water, which could cut down trips to the sink during the meals. So I started setting out the pitcher instead of the bottle. The father let it slide the first couple of times but then he explained to me that we use the glass bottle for meals, not the pitcher. They use the pitcher to fill the glass bottle but the pitcher is not to be placed on the table. The idea of habit and ritual is much more powerful in France than it is in the US. This can be seen on this small scale as well as larger scales. The lycée system in France is a great example of that. It was established by Napoleon, redone in the 1950s, and since then has pretty much stayed the same. There is very little flexibility within the lycée system in terms of education style and content. The last year of lycée is finalized by a massive standardized test covering everything students learned in school. In other words, every French student in the Literature track, for example, learns the exact same thing at the same time in the same way so that they can take the same test. As an American who is more familiar to the “do it your own way” and “fix what needs fixing” mentality, the French “that’s just how it is” attitude is certainly not something I’m used to.

The most important thing I will be taking away is a much better understanding of the French language and greatly improved comprehension and speaking abilities. Thank you to the Bush School, Lycée Victor Hugo, and Passpartout for this amazing opportunity!

Please enjoy these flics I took throughout my time in France!

(Peep Mont St Michel!)

– Emma Smith ’18


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