Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bienvenue à Aix-en-Provence!

I have been in Aix for a week, and already have learned so much about the people and culture! This week we focused a lot on the cultural faux pas that frequently occur when American students come to France.

The first difference you will notice in France (especially coming from a small town/school like Marietta) is that people do not smile at strangers. If you smile at someone you don't know, they will assume you are not from the area, and they tend to think you are strange. Our french professors told us that to look like we fit in we should look straight ahead while walking and maintain a more serious demeanor.

The next cultural difference to be aware of- always, ALWAYS, say "bonjour" when you enter a store or restaurant. This is a simple act that goes a long way to the French, and if you fail to say bonjour you may not be served, or you may encounter some rudeness. It seems unimportant to us, but its considered just having good manners in France.

Lastly, the French are very private people. When you are invited into a French person's home, you are a guest, and you should not "make yourself at home" even if they tell you to. Often when you enter a French household you will not be given a tour of the house, unlike in the U.S. The only rooms I have seen in my home stay are the living room, kitchen, and my bedroom/bathroom. It is also rude to clean your own dishes at someone's house; it can be seen as you thinking they are not good hosts, or that they are not maintaining a properly clean home. It is always polite to offer to help with cleaning, but you will usually be told to "reposez-vous," relax yourself.

NOTE: These of course are generalizations, and may not always be true in France or French cultures, but they are a good jumping-off point for understanding the French a little bit better.

The City of Water

My homestay


  1. That is an incredibly comely looking home!!!! I find it interesting how you have to almost be polar opposite - don't smile at people you don't know, but when you enter a store, say hello! Almost counterintuitive; is it difficult to remember these things?
    -Angela Sipes

  2. Monica,
    If you don't mind sharing, can you tell us more about why you wanted to live in a homestay? For anyone going abroad, this is definitely an important decision to make. I hope you are having an awesome time in Aix!

  3. Bonjour my dear friend!
    It is so interesting to learn about these cultural differences and how perceptions of even the simplest verbal and nonverbal cues can change based on the culture you find yourself in. I would be curious to learn how these perceptions and the basis upon which interpretations are made were established and why they differ from culture to culture (is it American and French historical roots? Occurrences in that country? How did these things get established?)
    Best wishes,
    Lindsey Schrock

  4. Bonjour Monica!

    It seems like you are having an interesting time abroad so far. I think it's very interesting that even though the French are private people and can have a stern persona, the greeting of one another is so important. I feel like in America often forget the simplest things like a greeting, but open ourselves up to people we might not even know.
    Continue having a great time!

  5. Monica,

    Personally I don't think I could look at people without smiling. I would think about it too much and end up laughing....then I would look weird. Do you find it difficult?
    If you don't mind, could you tell us more about the people you are living with? Is it a family? Is someone your age there? It would be cool to learn more about the home stay experience!

  6. Monica,

    Are you able to feel relaxed at your home stay while trying to avoid any cultural faux pas? After long days of traveling, if someone told me to 'make myself at home,' I most certainly would be tempted to do so!

    Is there any French food that you've grown particularly fond of during the first part of your visit?