Living The French Dream – What Does France Mean To Me

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traditional artisan cheeses

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What does France mean to me?

Delicate pastries and buttery croissants, scarves and berets fashionably worn, baguettes tucked under arm as people rush home for their afternoon meal. Creamy foie gras spread over toast, sun ripened grapes hung heavy on a vine, then winemakers press their grapes into world renown wine paired with 400 varieties of artisan cheeses. A rich and tragic history folds and unfolds through time clinging to the enduring people of France. The natural draw of the rhythmic tides hitting the Mediterranean shore and the slow green/brown flow of the Canal Du Midi shaded by the majestic Plane all make up the diverse tapestry that I see as southern France.

 

Canal Du Midi
Canal Du Midi

Ever wonder what living in France is like?

Still the number one tourist destination in the world, France has managed to hold on to their culture in a closed tight fist grip, while others have let their identities slip carelessly through their fingers into the melting pot of European society. Where Europe’s big cities begin to look like each other, France still remains true to itself; quaint, authentic and traditional. In a country where most people follow the 100-kilometer rule, where if it is not produced within 100 square kilometers from where you live, than you don’t buy it. Most people drive French cars, eat French food, and travel throughout France; a good example of patriotism and supporting your people.

French bands at every festival
French bands at every festival

My favourite things about France are the festivals. Throughout the summer, musical venues tour the region, and often bands play for free, entertaining villages until the early hours of morning. They set up dance floors, food stands and entertainment for the kids to enjoy. I love how the French incorporate children into all their celebrations, never excluding them and families walk to events.

pottery
pottery

Come autumn, local wine producers put on parties to sample their first wines of the season, and many Vide Greniers are at this time of year as people empty out their attics of unwanted items to sell for extra money come winter. You can go to flee markets and antique shows every weekend throughout the region, and many people only buy used, which is great for recycling and finding treasures.

traditional artisan cheeses
traditional artisan cheeses

They also have winter markets in preparation for Christmas. Here you find local artists, jewelry makers, homemade jams and small handmade specialty items for that unique gift. The artisans come out to show off their goods and you can find made-in-house; sausage, fois gras, cheese straight from the farm, and local meats.

French love their vacations
French love their vacations

The French take their vacations very seriously. Les Vacances is a word that is always plural in French, and no wonder why…

With 16 weeks holidays a year, someone is always going somewhere, and they don’t all go on expensive vacations. Often they take a week here and there just to recoup. The few of us left at home get together to eat and drink.

 

Eva Hamori in Beziers
Eva Hamori in Beziers

France has an impressive health care system paid for by our high taxes. During my 5-day stay in hospital, I read online, that in parts of the world they only stay one night in hospital after a hysterectomy. Here, 4 days in mandatory, however some people stay up to 14 days depending on why they need it done. Usually cancer and more complicated procedures over and above a total hysterectomy weigh in for a longer duration. Furthermore, it is all covered by medical. I opted for a private clinic with a doctor who speaks excellent English and ended up paying 300€ in total for his fees.

Alfonz enjoying sometime time off
Alfonz enjoying sometime time off

Before being part of the medical system, Alfonz had a shard of ceramic fly into his eye during our house renovations. We went to the emergency, where we were directed to a private clinic, and a specialist who spoke English was called in and waiting for us upon arrival. We skipped the queue; they gave him Xray right then, anti-inflammatory drops, and antibiotics. In total including medicine to take home was 28€.

It isn’t easy becoming part of France (it took us nearly 18 months for a medical card) and takes a long time to assimilate. Sometimes I wonder if the language is made purposely difficult to learn just to keep out the riffraff.At least that is what I told my French teacher.

Everyone in France seems busy…Maybe this explains the endless amounts of red tape to wade through whenever filing paperwork, applying for anything, placing an order, having something delivered or sent, signing up for a group activity: perhaps this isn’t to slow us down or make us cry or crazy, but to keep everyone busy. How does the saying go? Idle hands are the devil’s tools! France may have based their entire country on this one saying or was it the two–dozen references to idle hands in the bible?

famous French Fois Gras
famous French Fois Gras