What's that smell?

Trip Start May 19, 2008
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of France  , Normandy,
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Things that make you go "ewww."
 
1. Public urination:
 
I'm tired of seeing men pee on the street. There, I said it. I know I normally speak of France as if it's wrapped in a chic lacy shawl, but that's only part of the truth. The other part is freaking nasty...and I'm getting sick of it.
 
And I'm not even talking about drunk men. These are otherwise normal looking fathers who have taken their kids to the park. While little Jean-Pierre is crossing the monkey-bars, Papa has turned his back to mark the nearest tree. It's the middle of the afternoon.
 
Walking home from class the other day, I saw an elderly man peeing off a bridge. And then a few days later, a man relieving himself on a cathedral.
 
Men aren't the only ones leaving puddles on the sidewalk. Dogs (and apparently leashed ferrets?) are free to do their business wherever. Sidewalks are constantly flecked with piles of poop. And followed by each pile are smear marks from the shoes of people who have had a very bad day.
 
2. Not-so-mystery-meat:
 
Even though I don't eat it...I am still exposed to 'meat-related issues.'
 
At first, there was the raging smell of fresh fish which permeated our super market. Then there was the time I accidentally stared for too long at a coil of blood sausage. There was the first time I saw escargot. And then the day Kyle ate escargot and told me all about it. When I found out people (all over the world, not just the French) eat rabbit. When Kyle ate rabbit. Frog legs. When I had to watch Kyle spit up his andouille sausage. Coming to terms with the fact that people eat horse. Tiny speckled eggs meant for human consumption. Foie gras. That smell coming from the corner shop. When I found a feather in my carton of eggs. At the grocery store, standing in line behind a man who bought nothing but two small brains.
 
3. Personal space:
 
I think the absence of 'personal bubbles' is one of the biggest social differences between France and the US. Kissing cheeks instead of shaking hands is only the beginning. At first I was constantly looking over my shoulder, and wondering (with a slight fear) why I was being followed so closely. Was I about to be pick-pocketed? Waiting at the bus stop, must I feel the breath of a stranger on my neck? Of course! In the checkout line, should the woman behind me press her shopping cart against my rear? Why not?! Want to rest your arm on mine while we ride the bus together? Make yourself at home!
 
Personal bubble....popped.
 
4. "Lady-lookers":
 
Simply put, these are men who enjoy hanging out on sidewalks looking at ladies. They might be alone or with a group, but it's clear that their sole purpose is to visually or verbally acknowledge attractive women. You might here them mutter, "Bonjour mademoiselle," or "Ça va?" They might smile or they might nod in approval. They might not notice that you're wearing a wedding ring, or holding hands with your husband, or that it's 2009.
 
5. Counting
 
Why. Why. Why. Why must I need to do mental math in order to count in French? If you don't know what I'm talking about it, read on.
 
For example:
 
"Ninety-nine" in French = "Quatre-vingt-dix-neuf"
 
This translates to: 4 x 20 + 10 + 9
 

Well, I hope this wasn't a downer. And since I don't have pictures of any of the above mentioned items...enjoy this random assortment from the last few months.
 
We miss you all!
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Comments

krainfo
krainfo on

Smells in France
Ah, France. It's been 30 years since I was a nanny in Paris, and I still love it. Thanks for the evocative essay. It brings back memories.
Incidentally, the French sidewalks, subways, etc. are much cleaner since the French had their big aha in the 80s and decided public trash cans would be useful, as well as an anti-litter campaign.
We'll be in Rouen in April- my niece is studying there. Can't wait.

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