What’s that? And other culture shocks in France

When traveling, you will encounter a lot of cultural changes. It is inevitable. You are living in a new place. And with a new culture, comes new ways of living, thinking, and being. Sometimes they seem silly, and other times revolutionary. But that is a matter of traveling, of beginning to know the world, and then having more knowledge and patience because of it. Currently, I am studying in Aix-en-Provence, France, and there are definitely major differences in culture that my friends and I already experienced.


1. Food

A small Patisserie in Aix-en-Provence sells both lunch and desserts. They are well-known for their eclairs.

Food, cooking, and cuisine can be a very personal cultural component. For my family, cooking is a necessity. There is no such thing as a party with small appetizers or no food. “Go big or go home,” should be our saying. But when it comes to traveling, all personal connections with food should be redefined. You are traveling to try new things, to have more adventures, so why not add food to the list? The worst case is that you don’t like it.

BEWARE OF: Unidentifiable vegetables, meat, and fruit.

LOOK FORWARD TO: Delicious spices, flaky pastries, sweet cookies, fresh vegetables and fruit, delectable meats, flavorful cheeses, beautiful outdoor restaurants, and new flavors.

2. Culture in the home

This is where I am staying during my three weeks in Aix-en-Provence. Inside is a beautiful apartment with green plants and stylish decor.

The bottom line is, that anywhere you go, the culture will most likely be different. Even something as simple as visiting a friend’s home can show a different culture. But what matters is how you deal with it.

BEWARE OF: Short showers, toilets with no seats or lids, low beds, and house rules.

LOOK FORWARD TO: Delicious home-cooked meals, pretty views, a second family, laughter, a place to come home to after a long day.

3. Culture in the city

This was the first sunny day during my stay in Aix. All of the streets in the centre are filled with these warm-colored buildings.

Depending on where you are traveling, this can all vary. For example, you have to pay for public restrooms in Europe. These components, however, are important for your stay, and could even make it more interesting by knowing them.

BEWARE OF: Paying for water, no butter for bread, slower restaurant service, pickpocketing, paying for bathrooms, strange machines for drying hands, and tourist traps.

LOOK FORWARD TO: Museums, delicious restaurants, eating dessert with every meal, trying new things, looking at beautiful architecture, panoramic views, nature, cobblestone paths, enchanting corridors, colorful doors and shutters, flower baskets, nice shop owners, handmade soaps, and outdoor markets.

4. Environmentally Friendly

There are outdoor markets almost everyday in Aix. Under white tents, one can spot clothing, fresh macarons, cheese, sausages, and fresh fruit.

The French, from what I have experienced so far, are extremely environmentally conscious. Growing up in a high school where there was a “recycling club,” it is a breath of fresh air to be with others who care about the cause and effect of what we use everyday.

BEWARE OF: Automatic lights, and timed showers.

LOOK FORWARD TO: Helping the environment, fresher products, better-for-you products, natural light, pretty green plants, and drinkable tap water.

5. The Euro

Really though, euros are just so much prettier (PC: Didier Weemaels).

Oh, the euro. A magical and colorful currency that makes our American bank accounts cry. Spending money while traveling can be tricky, so it is always good to plan in advance and know the difference between your currency and the euro. Right now, one euro is about 1.13 USD. This, of course, changes, so be sure to check before leaving.

BEWARE OF: Expensive restaurants, currency charges, credit card fees.

LOOK FORWARD TO: Colorful money, treating yourself, feeling special, dropped exchange rates, partnered banks, travel reward points.

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