The other day, I was sitting in a pub taking in a soccer match with some fellow international students when we got on the topic of money. While the French consider chats on money to be taboo, we foreigners seemed to take no issue with it. I was relieved to find that my peers seemed to be having a difficult time living a frugal lifestyle, not due to careless spending (for most of us), but simply an inability to find anything of value at a low cost. Even tougher, we decided, the Euro can be very deceiving.
“It’s hard to remember that the 2 Euro coin is a boss,” remarked the Aussie seated across from me. He couldn’t be more correct.
Back home, I often find myself trying to get rid of change. Simply put, I find it a nuisance to carry around. Quite literally, I suppose you could say it burns a hole in my pocket, and often falls victim to a vending machine, cheap pick-up at the grocery store, or when I resist the temptation, a savings jar.
The Euro presents a problem, because coins come in 1 euro and 2 euro, in addition to cent pieces. Conveniently, all delicious French baguettes and pastries are all priced in the 1-2 euro range, making it easy to dump a “boss” for a delicious treat. Yet, what is difficult to comprehend when your lips are wrapped around a croissant is the fact that a 1 euro coin is $1.35, and the 2 euro “boss” is in fact $2.70. The rate of exchange also can play some tricks of its own. Lunch for $5 back home is a decent bargain, so naturally, seeing a deal for a 5 euro lunch will pull me inside almost any cafe. It’s only after I’ve enjoyed a panini and apricot juice that I realize I’ve coughed up $6.75 on lunch, which isn’t as great a bargain. Even the government subsidized cafeteria lunch is 3.10 euro, which is $4.18. Believe me when I say you don’t even get what you pay for. Cafeteria food here is the bottom of all barrels.
To sum it up, Bordeaux is not cheap, though it can be deceptive that way. To be honest, I believe that the U.S. offers much more bang for your buck, even if our food is mass produced and loaded with preservatives.
The other thing I have noticed since arriving in the Bordeaux area is that the folks here are very accepting of people from all walks of life. No one really makes a scene over what has become a very ethnically diverse city. Even in my Finance course, I am one of two Americans, with students from Morocco, Kuwait, Germany, England, Poland, Mexico, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Canada, and France. Yet, the diverse background hasn’t hindered the classroom environment, and has, in fact, only enriched discussions.
I have been very curious about foreigners’ views of America, and have inquired when I felt comfortable. The reactions I’ve gotten have all been pretty similar, and seem in tandem with what’s been reported through various media outlets. Most folks don’t necessarily care for the authority that our government has at times asserted over the rest of the world, but nonetheless, can respect what our nation has accomplished. Most people have become more accepting after Obama’s election, seemingly because his political lean tends to align more with the majorities in France. Yet, despite all of this, not everyone is fully on board.
Last Saturday, I returned from a run to the supermarket to find two policemen standing in the driveway of the house I am staying at. My whole body was tensed as I shuffled through the gate.
“Monsieur? Est-ce que je peux vous aider?” I mumbled to the first cop. At that point, my landlady hustled out of the house, and I soon learned what had summoned the men to our neck of the woods. There had been an unclaimed bicycle left in our driveway for the past couple of days, and someone gave my landlady the idea that it could be a stolen bike that was ditched here in the night. My landlady gets up early (like, 3 AM early) to go to work as a florist, so our gate is not always closed in odd hours. Anyways, she did not want to be suspected of stealing the bike herself, if it be found in her yard.
The policemen began questioning her about who lives at the house, and if they might have friends who had left it. When they inquired about me, my landlady said something that caught me quite off guard. When the men asked why I didn’t understand everything they were saying, my landlady told them I was British. Not knowing what to think of it, I played along.
After the police left, I learned that some members of law enforcement don’t have a favorable opinion of Americans. Consequently, steering clear of referencing anything about the land across the pond can keep matters calm. In other words, it’s okay to be here, but don’t go waving your flag around.
I can live with that.
Until next time,