Aero: Christine Elizabeth – France 2015 – Family Life
Aero: Christine Elizabeth – France 2015 – Family Life
When I had found out that we were going to be spending one week living with a host family, instead of my initial thought of us staying in a hotel for 2 weeks I got a bit nervous. I mean dealing with one’s own family can be stressful and awkward enough at times but to live with a family of strangers you never met before, who speak a totally different language and have a very different way of life then what you are used to, the pressure of wanting to make a great first/lasting impression on these people and not mess up anything can be overwhelming. Needless to say I made up my mind to do my best, be as polite and well-mannered as possible, listen well, and do my best to help out with housework and learn about their ways the best I could. I had received word from my professor of who I would be staying with on my visit to France. My hosts were to be Yveline Jacob, an English professor at the school in Vitre, and her son Thomas 17 who attended the school she taught at. You can imagine my relief when I found out via email from my professor that my host spoke perfect English as well as her son was learning and spoke a little too. That right there relieved a lot of pressure from my mind, as I was concerned about the communication aspect of my stay because I speak very little French.
Upon my first time meeting Yveline I was nervous and yet excited to be meeting my host and to be learning about the French culture first hand by living under the roof of this humble French abode and daily living out the French routine and culture. At first glance Yveline was about 5’7 with short thin brown hair and bright rosy cheeks. I was introduced to her via my professor and when she first spoke to me I immediately noticed her accent and questioned if she was full blown French because she had a strong German accent. She laughed and said it’s probably because she is learning German as a 3rd language so she can also teach that language to her students. So in actuality, she had a mix of a German, French, English/British accent. Very cool.
One of the first things I noticed upon arrival to my house as I was getting a tour, was the bathrooms. In France and much of the UK from what I was told, the toilet is in one room-and just a toilet mind you, no sink or anything else. Then the sink and bathtub are in a separate room called the washroom, or WC. That definitely took some getting used to. Yet I guess it’s kind of a good thing considering if you have to use the toilet in America and someone is taking a shower you have to wait. Though here, two people can do two separate things at once. Some other differences I noticed was, meal times. Meal times were very important and family was expected to all gather around the table to eat and converse. Very different from here in America, where many families do not eat together for one reason or another, kids are at games, spouse is at work, or more often than not most are engaged in their own world. Whether it is sports, TV or the phone. I really appreciated that time with my host family and looked forward to it, because we would talk about the day and what happened, what was going to go on during the week, laugh and joke about things.
Breakfast and lunch as well were family gatherings. Breakfast usually consisted of coffee and some sort of a pastry whether it was a crepe, a croissant, a pain au chocolat (croissant like bread with chocolate inside) or a brioche (a sweet bread with a honey like glaze on top). Very similar to some American breakfasts. However I did notice they did not have things like bacon, ham, eggs, fruit, granola, or oatmeal for breakfast the whole time I stayed there. Something as well I noticed when eating at my host house or out was that nobody seems to drink anything besides water with their meals unless it is wine or champagne.
My host family did a lot of things with me; they chauffeured me to many places including the mall, downtown, the Oceanside, stores, the grocery and school. They loved to laugh a lot and I found myself calling Yveline my French mom as we grew closer because she and her family made me feel like I was a part of theirs. I got along great with my host family and had many inside silly jokes with them. I loved spending time with them and learning about their culture on a daily basis.
The family consisted of Yveline the mother, Erik the father, Laure the 14 yr. old daughter and Thomas the 17 year old son. Oh yes and Avalanche their fat cat. The husband Erik I only saw a few times as he worked in Nantes as a computer salesman during the week and stayed in housing in that area. He would come home on the weekends to spend time with his family. Yveline taught in the school and Thomas and Laure attended school from 8am-4pm.
Every morning we would get up around 7am, have breakfast, get ready and drive to the school to be there at 8. We would be in class till about 12 and then have lunch in the cafeteria which by the way is way more upscale than our cafeterias in the United States. The food is more gourmet, as well as you have more choices of what to eat. The communication between me and the family was great. I spoke as much French as I could with them and when I didn’t know what to say I just asked Yveline how to say it in French and she would help me. Thomas her son was learning Spanish as well, and he preferred speaking Spanish actually so he and I held a few conversations in Spanish because I speak it fluently. That was very encouraging to me.
I helped out with dishes, setting the table, clearing the table and helping with my laundry. Doing the typical things that most people would do in America. I did a terrible job though hanging up my clothes to dry on a line as I have never done that before, because I have a Dryer at home. In this house however they did not, but it made for a lot of laughs and great conversation. If I could say one thing about the host family life, It definitely is different, but if you’re willing to be open and try your best to communicate with them regardless of your amount of French, you will do just fine and have a lot of fun in the process 😉