My Month in Bordeaux, France

My Month in Bordeaux, France

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In France, little things were different at first: the way the milk is packaged, what brands of laundry detergent they use, and more. Even with the small changes, I was astounded at how similarly people in Bordeaux and people in Portland live. Every region in the world is a little different but the people stay the same everywhere.

One difference culturally between the USA and France is meals: times they are served and portion sizes. In the USA, dinner is the main meal of the day. It's usually the biggest meal and is when everyone gathers to eat together. In France (as well as Germany, I’ve noticed), the most important meal of the day is déjeuner, or lunch. I found this nicer and a little healthier, because it means that all the energy of the meal can sustain you throughout the day. If you eat a lot before you sleep, it can be hard to sleep and also you don’t need all that energy for your sleep.

Breakfast was also different, as drinks like coffee, hot cocoa, and tea are drunk out of a bowl. Also, French breakfast tends to be sweet and small rather than in the USA where there is usually a savory protein included.

The best part of my exchange was when we visited the family's grandparents in Bretagne. They lived by Saint-Nazaire in a small seaside town. The area around there has a lot of visible history of World War II, huge blockhouses and old submarine bunkers, all constructed from massive grey cement blocks. The ocean was gorgeous and the grandparents were very welcoming and kind.

The grandmother, Marcel, cooked some more traditional French meals for us there, such as moules frites, raclettes and crêpes. My favorite part about French food is the freshness of all the ingredients. For example, we went to a market on Sunday in Saint-Nazaire to buy ingredients and of course to shop around in the other stalls as well. All the fish was very fresh, due to the location. Warm weather fruits and veggies were often not as fresh and grown in Spain or some other neighboring country. Still, compared to the USA, this is more fresh than a lot of our supermarket produce, which is often picked unripe and shipped thousands of miles from the border.

Another thing I noticed in France was the people's and government's efforts to be healthy. “Bio” foods, meaning pesticide free, were very popular and there were a lot of supermarkets that sold exclusively that. Furthermore, the government has done a lot to try and stop people from smoking tobacco by increasing taxes and adding unpleasant photos to packaging. It hasn’t seemed to work very well, though.

In the USA, consumerism is much more alive. There are days in France that you can’t go shopping, which is unheard of in America, because the mindset is that money has to be made every day of the week.

The buildings are all denser and older in France, which gives its cities a different feeling that those in the USA, which are often more spread out. European cities are definitely more pedestrian, because there isn’t enough room for cars to drive comfortably. Most people park their cars in lots and walk around the city if they are going into town.

In all, I really loved my exchange. My family was very nice and welcoming and Bordeaux is a beautiful city with amazing architecture and great art museums. I made friends and I would love to visit Bordeaux or somewhere else in France again.

-By Phina Hansen