Guest Post by Care Bach
Although I’ve always loved exploring other cultures, I must admit that from time to time some American bias kicks in and I think the U.S. does things a little better. However, that perspective was instantly challenged the second I set foot in France. During a recent trip around the country with my family, I was pleasantly surprised to find that when it comes to living life the fullest it turns out the French know exactly what they’re doing!
Here, for your reading pleasure, are five life-changing lessons I learned from the French while vagabonding around their country eating all the croissants and tartar I could get my hands on. Also, shout-out to Trevor Gerland Photography for the fabulous snap shots!
1. Apéritifs are a must for every dining experience
What is an Apéritif you ask?
(n) a small drink of alcoholic liquor taken to stimulate the appetite before a meal. Also called apéritif wine. A wine served as an appetizer or cocktail.
As a proud self-proclaimed lush, I did my research and had preconceived notions about the French wine culture before my visit. During past trips to Europe I also gathered that drinking is a big part of the culture, but had no idea about the amazing goodness that is an apéritif. If you’ve been living under a rock as I had been, let me enlighten you…
Apéritif simply means a drink before dinner (or brunch, lunch or just whenever you are thirsty for some wine deliciousness — as I am often). At first glance this doesn’t sound so impressive, I mean, Americans basically invented this concept in college (pre-gaming), BUT let me tell you the best parts about this:
Apertif is usually a rosé, prosecco, or liqueur that is meant to set the tone of the meal and open up the palate. Classy AF.
You can indulge in an Apéritif anywhere and everywhere, such as the trunk of our rental car right outside the castle of Mont Saint-Michel (which by the way was extra classy because it was paired with foie gras). #WineWithaView
Apértifs are CHEAP. How civilized! I’m talking 3-5 Euros for a damn good rosé. In America, we’re talking Boon’s Farm. I also enjoyed comparing the price of an apértif to the price of a non-alcoholic beverage at every restaurant we visited. Ex: One Café charged 8 Euros for a cup of tea and 3 Euros for a glass of Rosé. You mean I’m actually saving money by drinking wine? Sold.
Takeaway: Dining is an experience, and apéritifs are always appropriate.
2. The world is watching
Although America is such a young country, I sometimes forget that happenings the United States can have a significant impact on the rest of the world. It was quite amazing to see how much the French knew about our cultures, politics, and economics. They will sit and talk for hours about our current presidential election — I guess it’s not just a hot topic at home!
Get this, I even met a 12-year-old boy in Normandy who wore a shirt with President Obama’s face on it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know who the Prime Minister of France was when I was 12…wait… it’s still a stretch — oops!
I thought a lot about why are they so interested in American politics, and started to tangibly feel how what happens in America actually influences the rest of the world. The moment I had this realization, an image of Ben Parker from Spider Man popped into my mind saying “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Takeaway: What we do in America impacts the rest of the world, so let’s not let those 12-year- old French boys down. Also, don’t ever talk politics with the French unless you know your stuff. And by stuff I mean you better bring your history textbooks because you will get schooled.
3. Be proud of your country and a tourist in your own town
As an American and a Navy Brat, I’ve always considered myself to be patriotic. But in America, our views of patriotism can differ from those of our European friends. The French truly live patriotism; it’s an action instead of a noun.
Some time ago my Dad connected with this great Frenchman, Mark, at a business conference here in the states. He and his girlfriend Carole were kind enough to tour us around the Normandy countryside. Mark was great, but man, Carole was amazing! She planned a whole itinerary for us, and drove us around to a bunch of incredible WWII sites in Normandy — which by the way she has visited a million times. You would have guessed we were paying her in rosé because she toured us around like it was her job. At the end of our stay, we told her how awesome our time was and how kind she was to have taken all that time to show us around. Her response? “I love to show you my country”. Mic Drop.
Takeaway: You want to know when the last time I toured a complete stranger around the concrete jungle that is Houston? Never. But if you’re friendly and you love apéritifs, come on down to H-Town and I’d love to show you my country, because we need more of that kind of hospitality in the world.
4. Love is everything
The French are lovers. They love food, wine, politics (see above), history, more food, fashion — and did I mention rosé? They love everything with palpable passion.
Paris is known as the city of love and that reputation couldn’t be more warranted. It oozes out of everything. You feel more love just walking through Paris.
I, for one, fell in love at first sight with tartar (which is temporarily a fleeting romance… until I propose McTartar to McDonalds).
French people seem to act like every day is the most exciting date of their lives. They have this zest for life that you don’t often find. Maybe it’s the city views, or the amazing food, or one too many apéritifs, but you walk around Paris and instantly feel passionate.
It inspired me to carry that passion back home and infuse it into my everyday life. Even if I’m not always sitting at an amazing café with the Eiffel tower in the background, there’s something to be appreciative about in every moment.
Life Lesson Learned: Love as much as you can. And eat all the tartar.
5. Take time to smell the roses (or in my case, the rosé)
The French are all about living a life of leisure. While we were in Paris, we heard about the thousands of local protesters who were rioting in the streets because the government is trying to raise the traditional 35-hour workweek to 40-hours (um 35-hour workweek? Where do I sign up??! Viva la France!)
Now I can’t attest to the business productivity across the pond, but I will say they might be onto something. To the French, there is no such thing as rushing. Schedules are flexible, and time is relative. While I can’t always apply this to my 9-5 office world (believe me, I tried), I think this is a good reminder to take time to slow down and enjoy other aspects of life that we are constantly breezing through such as dinner with friends or family, viewing the beautiful sites of your city, or just being present with yourself.
Life lesson learned: rosé is everything. Kidding, sort of. But slow the EFF down once in a while!
Visiting France wasn’t an experience I expected to change my life. Honestly, I anticipated a bunch of overpriced food and posh a-holes. But I was pleasantly surprised to meet the most hospitable and truly kind people I’ve ever encountered. And the dining was even more amazing than I had hoped for. The recent tragedies that hit the country of France have truly saddened my heart, and I hope that all the lovely people of France find peace and safety.
Thank you France for teaching me a little more about life, I raise my glass to you for your resilience in all of the recent heartbreak. Merci!
BRB just doing stuff k?