- Laundry in France: Washed in a small machine called a "lave-linge". Has about a 5kg capacity, usually washed with different heat levels depending on the item. After items are hung on the line to dry. A great investment when first moving is a lave-linge, but they are very expensive. Only invest if you plan on living in France for more than 2 years. If you buy it used, be sure to ask about the "assurance" and find out how old it is and the energy efficiency.
- Jeans are NOT washed after one usage: I didn't know this, but in France it's very common to wear the same pair of jeans for 3-5 days. When I say same, I mean they wear them every day. It's not a big deal to wear the same jeans, despite the "fashion" atmosphere.
- Breaking the Stereotype: French people shave. French people don't wear all black, in fact they wear bright pastel colors, like from the 80's. Not everyone smokes, in fact it's illegal to smoke indoors now. Yes, they do eat a baguette every day... which I'll discuss in another post about "manners" at the table. There are mimes, and they are freakin' scary.
- Don't Hug, "Fait le bis": Making the kiss, or fait le bis, is one of the strangest things for an outsider to experience. Depending on the regional areas the number of kisses change, in Lyon two is sufficient. Heres the run down: Female to Female = always cheek/cheek kiss. Male to Female, vice versa = always cheek/cheek kiss. Male to Male = Only kiss if it's a family member or close friend, otherwise shake hands. Always kiss everyone at the beginning of seeing them, and upon goodbye. It's very rude to leave without saying goodbye.
- Culture in France is Changing: Globalization is an international phenomenon, so don't be suprised to be walking along the street in Lyon and suddenly it's as if it's a whole different country (think guillotière) It's not a matter of xenophobia, it's a matter of 50 years of integration from other Middle Eastern and North African countries. There's a huge amount of graffiti in France, unsure as to why it has become so popular- but anywhere you go you'll find graffiti somewhere, walls, doors, alleyways. I'll discuss more in another post.
- Marchés are Fabulous, but Expensive: I was always under the assumption that a trip to the marché would indulge my Julia Child fantasies in negotiating the price of product and being given samples. My experiences have been bittersweet. Supermarchés in France has destroyed the need for citizens to make daily routes to the market, and thus the producer's have had to make the prices higher to pay for the difference. Producers are not interested in have you touch the product. Instead try the following phrases:
- Bonjour, j'ai besoin de (insert name of fruit/vegetable) pour manger ce soir- avez-vous des recommendations?
At this point they will either ask you to hurry up and choose, in a not-so-nice way, or you will get very lucky and they will help you pick a wonderful fruit. I've had friends who have succeeded in this, but never myself. If all else fails, there are marchés that direct purchase from the producer's and sell inside of a building. (Like Bail Distribution in Lyon)
- Buy from Magasins d'Occasions or Brocantes: These are also known in English as "second hand shops" and "thrift stores". There you can find vintage clothing, furniture and fun things. Jewelry is a steal and it's better than buying new. Websites aren't widely used in france, but Top Annonces is a good place to look if looking for some furniture or other products. It's free to post, which is not typical.
- Moving can Break the Bank: Apartment searches in Lyon are expensive, normally we use agencies which align us with a good apartment. These agencies take a huge percentage of the cost for themselves, for example, our new apartment cost €1800 just to get the keys and move in. This does pay for the first month's rent, plus the deposit, which is a full month's rent, but the agency receives €400 just for aligning it with us. Hiring movers is impossible, our quote for mover's was €600 for 1/2 a day. Apartments often don't have elevators... you can imagine.
- Velo'v is a Wonderful Transportation System: Buses and metros are nice in Lyon, but the Velo'v system is way better. The difference is waiting for the métro and the bus, or hopping on a bike and getting to the destination "toute suite". A daily pass is €1, a weekly pass is €3, and a yearly pass (which you need to apply for) is €15. My advice to you:
- Buy the yearly pass for €15, which will give you 30 minutes on the bikes, each turn (you can use it unlimited times throughout the day, 30 minutes maximum each time you take one). Simply go to this site -- Inscription for Velo'v -- And apply. It takes about one month.
- In the mean time, go to TCL (the metro system, go to an information desk) and purchase the carte técély which is €22.10 for refill and €5 for the card. You will need a piece of identification, a picture of yourself and proof you live in France.
- After you purchase this card and receive the Velo'v card, call Velo'v customer service (it's free) and ask, slowly, if you can "transferer la carte Velo'v a la carte técély". Give the number, in French, and then the name. It will transfer.
- This process will enable you to have one hour on the Velo'v, and it's more durable, has your picture and better quality. Plus any time weather is crappy you can refill the técély card and use the metro system.
That's about all I can muster up for these first lessons... until next time..