Today was a full day, largely spent trying to figure this place out. I am slowly learning to adjust to this new place I call home, but I can’t say the transition has been seamless. There have been surprises, mistakes, u-turns, and quite a few audibles thus far. I thought it would be suitable to just lay it all out there when it comes to Bordeaux. For the sports gurus out there, this is a scouting report on my new surroundings.
Let’s start with the good! The food is spectacular. I must admit my bar is a bit low after eating college dorm food for the past few months, but I do believe the French have exceeded expectations. They take a lot of pride in the food that they produce, and therefore, the consumer in turn has high standards. Consequently, it isn’t cheap, with the exception of bread. This town lives on bread, and because so much is produced every morning, one can buy a 2 foot long baguette for just over $1 US. Everything else is at a premium. I paid about $6 US for cheese to make sandwiches, but I can assure you what I got was not Kraft singles, but rather, a wedge of one of Bordeaux’s finest delicacies. The French don’t believe in a lot of mass produced factory food, so most of what you’ll buy in the store is fresh but has a shorter shelf life, as preservatives are not used.
The other thing I like about the French are some little things about their language. For example, I am a bit bothered by the question “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” in the states, as I think it warrants a single response. Let’s be honest, if you are asked how you are, you’re going to say “I’m doing well,” or for those of you who are less gramatically advanced (or perhaps think you’re Mother Teresa), “I’m doing good.” The problem is that this has become such an automatic call-and-response that anything other than “I’m doing well” will surely receive further discussion, most likely discussion the greeter wasn’t intending to have. In other words, if I say “How are you” and you say “Not well” or even just “I’m fine,” I will have the obligation to stop and ask why you are not fantastic. See where I’m going? I’m certainly no pessimist, but I don’t think that everyone has to be doing well all the time. This is why I love French. Here, the saying is “Ça va?” which essentially means “It’s going?”. Then, it is perfectly acceptable for someone to reply “Ça va,” meaning “It’s going,” without any further explanation. The speaker has the option to say it’s going well, but it is not required. I like this because it makes the greeting into what we as Americans really want it to be – a simple salutation. Yet, no one feels obligated to say things are going well.
Finally, the city is beautiful. I have a few photos posted somewhere on this blog (I am trying to find where they went when I uploaded them), as I hope it will give you a flavor for what the scenery is like. About 10 years ago, the government really made a push to beautify the city to attract tourists, and I think their work has paid off.
While most everything is looking up, there are some aspects that are hard to deal with. For one, the French smoke more than a chimney on Christmas Eve. It is very common with a lot of younger people, as they still have this perception that it looks cool. I don’t think the anti-smoking campaign has hit this country yet, so it’s virtually impossible to avoid the smell. However, I am fortunate to live in a house where I believe all of the residents do not puff away a sizeable chunk of their disposable income.
The other thing that I find rough to deal with is the lack of punctuality on the part of the French. In fact, the only thing that is punctual here is store closings, which occur often. Most businesses open late, close for lunch, and re-open for a few hours in the afternoon, making shopping and other things difficult to accomplish. In any case, saying a tour will start at 3 PM means the first person to arrive will come around 3:05, and the tour will start around 3:30, when everyone arrives. That’s how it went today, as a fellow student from the U and I spent 25 minutes twiddling our thumbs for someone to arrive, and another 25 waiting to get going. Back home, most folks think of me as a Type B personality. This isn’t even Type B. This is like Type Z. The French are so laid back, they might fall over backwards. I suppose it will be something that just takes adjusting to. For now, it’s a bit rough.
If you read the title, you know that “The Interesting” is next. In the few days I have been here, I have noticed a few interesting occurences that I thought I’d share. For one, fashion is very important, even for males. Scarves, designer hats, tight jeans, fashion boots, and button-up jackets are something embraced by both genders. Second, romance and affection are not reserved for the private sphere, but rather, encouraged in public. Let’s just say when you sit down on the tram or bus, avoid doing so next to couples. We’ll leave it at that.
I am planning on running along the river downtown tomorrow. I tried a public park today, but its small size forced me to make multiple laps around the perimeter just to get in a good workout.
The Vikings play tonight! I am hoping my live stream on my computer will allow me to see it. It will start at 2 AM here. Oh well. As the kids say these days, YOLO.