Thursday, February 20, 2014

Navigating French Culture

Hey all! I’m going to do my best to answer some of your questions in this post, and then I’ll talk about one of the most important aspects of French culture- wine! 

  • Is it difficult to remember when to smile/say hello, and when to be more private?

For me, not at all. I joked with a friend recently saying that I have found my people. I am a much more introverted person, as well as a generally shy person, so I am not one to smile or talk to people I don’t know on the street. However, I was raised to be very polite, so I also don’t have any difficulty saying a simple “bonjour” when I enter a store. 

We were also told that smiling at a stranger, specifically smiling at someone of the opposite sex, could be seen as an invitation to come talk to you. This opens up an entirely new can of worms with the french “dating” scene, which is...different...than the way we go about dating in the U.S.

  • Why did you choose a home stay?

The simple answer to this is that the program I came through requires a homestay. However, as soon as I decided to study in France, I knew I wanted to live in a french home. The idea of living in a foreign country for 5 months by myself (or maybe with another American student) seemed lonely to me, and I did not want to be limited to only learning French culture at school. 

Being in a homestay has allowed me to become close to an older French woman and to learn about the culture and language more than I would have in an apartment. My house is warm and inviting, and it’s hard to feel homesick when I’m already home. My mom feeds us amazing food every night (including dessert!) and she genuinely cares about us. She is incredibly patient with me and helps me with my french every night at dinner. I have some friends living in apartments here, and I know they really enjoy it, too, but I could not imagine my life here without my amazing mom!

“La vie est trop courte pour boire de mauvais vin”

One of the classes I am taking here is Wine Studies: European Wine Regions. Most of my friends know how excited I was to take this class, and some people were jealous that I actually get to study wine- but it’s not all fun and games. We actually don’t just sit around and drink wine all day (as fun and relaxing as that sounds), but we study in depth the systems and regulations of wine production in the European Union. And amazingly enough, there are so many crossovers to Global Leadership (203) within this class!

In France, and in many other countries, wine can make or break a deal in business, politics, or what have you. Wine is always enjoyed with food, and it is *not* something you should get drunk off of- some restaurants will not serve you wine unless you also order some food! Bringing wine as a gift is almost never a good idea, as you can quickly offend someone by giving them the wrong wine for them. Think of it this way- you wouldn’t buy underwear for someone you don’t really know, would you? You have no idea what size or style they wear, and they could be offended that you think they have a certain taste. The same goes with wine- we all have different likes, and we don’t want to feel judged on which wines we drink.   

In a week I will be heading to Vienna and Prague for my winter break, and am very curious to see what cultural differences I will experience there! Feel free to message me if you have any more specific questions!

Au revoir,


  1. Hello Monica!

    I am loving your posts from France, it makes me miss my time in Europe! Its interesting to see your post on wine after reading Madison's post on coffee. The culture around beverages in other countries just fascinates me. From tea in Morocco to beer in Granada, coffee in Spain and wine in France, the differences from our college town culture just blows my mind.

    I'm wondering what sort of things along those lines you will find in Prague and Vienna, especially.

    I miss you and I hope all is well!

  2. Hiiiiiiii!

    This all sounds so exciting, especially the business and politics surrounding the world of wine. Your Mom sounds great, and I'm glad they can show you more culture than just the school can! I love your pictures, keep them coming!

    Love everyday! LICO

    Kayla <3