When in France, Do As The French Do

Two weeks ago, I returned from an exchange trip to Toulouse, France. Hopefully my students learned as much as I did...

12 things I learned in France

1. Everyone drinks wine at lunch

And it's perfectly acceptable, so have at it. Nothing beats a nice noon o'clock glass of vin. Don't forget to wash it down with a nice, crumbly baguette.

Wine Cheese

Wine Cheese

2. Showering is a creative process

If you've been to Europe you've probably come to the realization that America is home to the most luxurious showers in the entire world. While in France, showering became a humbling experience. Finding ways to get my hair beneath the shower head, or spout, or whatever strange contraption the water was pouring out of, was always a creative challenge. I'm just thankful I'm not currently on crutches as a result.

3. French pharmacies are beauty brand mecca

French pharmacies make CVS and Walgreens look like Dollar General. These little stores pop up about every two feet from one another and stock the most wonderful products I've ever smelled. With advice from a friend who basically has her PhD in French Skincare, I purchased a few products I wish I could just bathe in every morning. When they run out I'm not quite sure how I'll manage.

4. Yes, cheese is a thing

And thank God for that.

5. Ditch your watch, or at least slow it down

When I told our tour guide I thought we were running late to join the students at our meet-up point, she looked at me confused. "What time is it?" she asked. "4:25," I said, glancing down at my watch. "Ah," she realized, "an American watch. It's running fast, I suppose." Ouch. She had me there. I didn't mention our lateness or total neglect of the scheduled itinerary the rest of the trip.

French Clock

French Clock

6. Ladies wear lipstick

The cliché is true. French women really are chic. I saw a lot of lipstick walking up and down the streets. Apparently, our students did too. By the last day, everyone was wearing more makeup than they came with.

7. When in doubt, speak Spanish 

Since I speak little to no (emphasis on the no) French, you can imagine it might have been a bit difficult for me to get around in France. I at least had one thing going for me. I can speak Spanish. So if English wasn't an option, I tried out Spanish. If that didn't work, the rest went something like, "Eh..uh.. sorrry.. au revoir!"

8. School uniforms consist of nylons, mini skirts and combat boots

These French high schoolers were so fashionable. Straight out of an Urban Outfitters catalogue I tell you. My Gap jeans and Toms were about the lamest thing on the block.

9. It's hard to stay hydrated

I've never seen so many tiny cups in my life. But I think I've realized why no one drinks very much water at meals. If you're not drinking, you won't have to pee. And finding a public restroom in France is harder than finding a Horcrux. And if you do find one, you might have to pay for it, so that's not much help either if you're out of euro coins...oops.

10. Coffee happens a lot

Sleeping happens less.

11. Dogs have free reign

When people walk their dogs, they do so without a leash. This made me nervous at first but then I was just impressed. Of course the dogs are more sophisticated in France. They would never stand for being roped about like animals.

12. Barcelona isn't too far away

One of the highlights of my trip was a weekend excursion to Barcelona. It confirmed the notion that once you're in Europe, it really is so much easier to travel around. If I'd had more time, I would have loved to see Paris and some other not-too-far-away cities. Barcelona was gorgeous and bustling. And never in my life did I think I would be so relieved to hear some Spanish.