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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Story Time: France Years Ago..

In class yesterday I learned a lot of very interesting facts about France.  My professor was detailing different family structures and then we got into a discussion about what types of technologies existed years ago and how quickly this has changed.

Thing is, it's been an even more exclusive change in France- in America while we were testing cars and turning on lights France was years behind.  I got to thinking, Europe will always be slightly behind.  I have often heard that America was known due to it's contributions during World War II, but I think it's bigger than that.  America is an innovator... we are inventors.

As early as the 1870's, lightbulbs were used to light homes in America.  Edison invented the incandescent light bulb, and soon it became as big as the iPhone or iPod today.  By the 1900's many homes had electricity in America.. and thanks to Roosevelt's "New Deal" it was everywhere in 1935.  but in France?  Electricity starting showing in densely populated areas in the 1920's... and up until the 1940's electricity still didn't exist in many rural villages.  Candle light and gas lighting... gas electricity and coal heating- that was often the used method of "electricity".  I knew an older woman in her 80's that still had a coal stove and no electric wires, she'd lived in the same apartment for 50 years.

Many apartments in France, up until even the 1960's, only had a sink in the kitchen to bathe with.  Much like the 'wash basins' in the 1800's Americas; often a bath or shower was reserved to those with weath... specifically nobility.  My professor even remembered not having a shower.. which to me is absolutely incredible!

Grocery Shopping
In France, up until even the 1970's, buying food was considered a true joy.  Following the love for life, the 35 hour work week, social care for society... France also took joy in eating.  A weekly trip would often include several different shops:  a fish shop, a butcher's shop, cheese shop, pastry shop (in the mornings), vegetables from the marché and of course a daily visit to a boulangerie for the bread.  Supermarkets began popping up in the late 60's, modeling after America's grandiose shops.  It takes the joy of eating away, but it took a much longer time to integrate into the culture than America's 1940's prim/clean super market worlds.

Talking with Bri made me realize that he was always a little behind me in the Internet world.  I had my first email address when I was 8 years old.  He had his when he was 15.  Internet became an integral part of my world in the United States as early as the late 80's; for France it took a little longer and didn't catch on until the late 90's.  Even though now Internet exists to connect us and thus helps to reduce that lag time between innovations- we still see a lag between America's inventions and programs and what exists in France.

Things that May Never Catch On
  • Microwave Popcorn:  Haven't seen it and I don't think I ever will.
  • Sizing Options:  The hips in jeans are cut thinner here, and MacDo will never have a 64oz soda.
  • Pop Tarts:  Why eat a pop tart when you can have a pain au chocolat?
  • Peanut Butter:  Most French people I talk to HATE HATE HATE peanut butter.
  • Sweet Potatoes/Marshmallows:  Don't ever make this for a French person.  They will turn their nose up.
  • Pumpkin Pie:  Also another anomaly to French people- salée/sucré do not mix in their minds.
  • Binge Drinking Cheap Beer:  In college, we all did it.  Beer pong.  Drinking games... I've never met a French person (that DIDN'T go on an exchange) yet that wants to binge drink cheap beer.
  • Cost of School: Nope.  It will always be that €400 inscription and not that $10,000 yearly cost.
  • Insurance Companies and Healthcare:  Healthcare will never resemble American culture.
  • CEO Pay Gap:  Here, rarely will a president of a company be paid 300x more than a base employee; everyone is more leveled here.
  • "Shut up and Take it" Mentality:  You know, the tendancy we Americas have to just let Government do whatever and complain we have no power... here it's all about the grèves and manifestations.  If you don't like something, say something.


  1. I'm really enjoying your blog, and I'm learning a lot from it. Regarding your description of the slow spread of electricity and elaborate plumbing...I don't know if I'm right about this, but it seems to me that France must have been a poor country until after WWII. That's how I explain to myself their practice of eating all bits of an animal, or eating animals that few other people eat (e.g. frogs and snails). If it's true that there was little wealth here, that might explain the slow development of infrastructure like power and plumbing. On the other hand, they were actually ahead of other countries in the development of the internet. The French Minitel system was far ahead of internet usage in the US, so much that it may have slowed France's embrace of the www/internet.

    1. you know we had castles and kings and royalty when united states of america didn't even exist and was just full of indians you know that ?

  2. Hi, I found your blog through the lovely A Taste of Garlic site. I do have to say that I found microwave popcorn just this week after finally buying a microwave and dying to have some popcorn. It was available in sugared (Urgh!) and salted (yum).

    I agree that France is behind with most things, but what about cordless kettles? My American friends are always amazed to see my cordless kettle! Actually, the French still prefer saucepans to make their tea so why on earth do they have cordless kettles for sale in the first place??

  3. AnonymousJuly 22, 2011

    Hello Sasha!
    Reading your post, my french sensibilities were hit. I agree with the electricity and showers chapters (it concerned old buildings most of the time) but I don't with Grocery Shopping and internet chapters. In fact Carrefour built the first european superstore in 1963 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypermarket)and technically France was the first country in the early 80's to have an internet-like system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minitel). Microwave popcorn can be found in many grocery stores for 5 yrs at least. I bought sweet Potatoes purée at Picard(frozen food)3 years ago.
    I love your blog anyway but I'm perfectionist.
    I hope you'll enjoy that information.


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