These past few weeks after my spring break have been transitioning back into work and classes while being able to spend more time with my host family and exploring southern France. Exactly 7 weeks from today I will be on a plane back home to the States. As I am past the mid-semester point of my time in France (not sure how that happened), I figured I would reflect a little on some of the things that I want to take back to the states when I come home.
- Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling: France in general puts a lot of emphasis on the environment with good public transportation, windmills in the countryside, and strict laws on littering. But it’s not only the government that is focused on helping the environment, the French people also take it upon themselves to decrease their environmental footprint. For example, at all grocery stores and markets, everyone brings their own bags because you have to pay for plastic bags. I rarely ever see anyone carrying plastic bags around. The French are also very conscious about their energy and water usage. Specifically my host family tries to reuse everything they can and also to not produce a lot of waste. This means that we eat absolutely everything on our plate (using bread to scrape up remaining sauces of course). The idea of having reusable bags and trying not to waste as much food/water/electricity is something I definitely want to continue.
- Enjoying the simplicity of nature: Now that it is warm out, most weekend mornings I wake up and eat breakfast outside with my family. It is so nice to just sit outside with the sun on my face in the morning. Whenever I am walking around Montpellier, the French are either enjoying a café in the morning, grabbing lunch with friends in the afternoon, having a drink in the evening- all outside. Even if it’s cold, I will still see people in coats and scarfs sitting outside under heat-lamps. Thankfully the weather is relatively mild in Montpellier, so they have ample time to sit outside and they sure do take advantage of it!
- Learning multiple languages: So many people in Europe speak more than one (and many more than two) different languages. Children start in elementary school learning a second language and then in middle/high school they can choose to learn a third. Meanwhile, in the states, most people do not start learning another language until high school. While I knew this coming into my semester abroad, I think I have a better appreciation of languages after spending most of my time here speaking French. Learning languages not only opens up so many doors but also it allows for such a different outlook on cultures and lifestyles. There are so many phrases in the French language that cannot be directly translated in English because they are uniquely French. One of my favorites that I have learned here is how to say “a runny nose” in French. The French say “nez qui coule” which, first off is just really fun to say in french, and secondly directly translates to “a nose that flows”. Personally, I like the French’s expression better than our own! Another fun phrase (which I will admit have not heard used that much, but thought it was funny so I had to include it) is “mêle-toi de tes oignons” which directly translates to “mind your onions” but which is the french way to say mind your business. I guess the French just really like onions.
- Apéritif dînatoire: The French love their “appetizer dinners”. For a special occasion or when friends are over, the french like to have appetizers for dinner while sitting around the living room. I have always loved appetizers and having dinners completely of appetizers sounds just about perfect to me! Other than just the food, these dinners are a way for friends to spend an evening catching up and enjoying good food. Sounds like I will have to continue this in the states!
This past weekend I was able to take a day trip to Avignon on Saturday which is a cute little city in the Provence region of Southern France. It was nice to get out of Montpellier for the day and to not have to worry about the protests on Saturday. We explored Avignon and stopped in the Palais des Papes where the Pope used to live before moving to the Vatican in Italy. Avignon was full of lavender flavored and scented things as Provence is known for its lavender fields. We also ran into a festival when we were there (this always seems to happen to me when I go places for the day but I’m not complaining!). There was a parade of drummers and many children running around in costumes! On Sunday, I spent the day with my host family and their friends at the beach. It was a gorgeous day and being able to get to the beach in 20 minutes by car is awesome. No wonder why everyone loves living in Montpellier!