Aero: Kimberly Gage – France 2015 – Family Life
Aero: Kimberly Gage – France 2015 – Family Life
Before arriving in France, I had the opportunity to contact my host student, Thibault. He told me that his English was not the greatest and likewise I told him my French was the same. When we met at the station Friday evening, we were finally introduced, greeted each other, and that was about it. I was so nervous I couldn’t think of anything to say conversation-wise in French. His parents asked me questions in English and I did my best to respond fully in French. They spoke English very well, as did his sister Marie, who did most of the translating while I stayed with them. Most of my stay was like this with very minimal amount of communication. It wasn’t until much later that we were able to extend beyond our barriers and comfort zones and communicate.
Their house was larger than what I was expecting, and the room I was in was very comfortable and cozy. The toilet was kept separate from the bathroom, which actually makes a lot of sense to me. At my house we have a half bathroom and a full one; if someone is using the shower and someone else needed the toilet, they would have to go to the half bathroom. If the toilet and showers were kept separate in the first place then there wouldn’t be any hassle.
I had the opportunity to wash my clothes, something new that this study abroad class hasn’t done before. Doing the laundry took much more time to do only because of the levels of energy and water conservation the appliances run on. At home it takes me less than an hour to do one load of laundry and goes through multiple rinses. At my host family’s house it took me more than three hours! They had this amazing-stain fighting detergent in an aerosol can that I doubt we would have here at home. There wasn’t any fabric softener so clothes were a little stiff after they dried. My host family also had a drier; it didn’t use heat to dry the clothes but it cycled cool air. I think these driers relied on convection currents of the air to dry as opposed to heat. If there was a small load of laundry, drying racks were also available to use.
There was a game room that was connected to my bedroom at my host family. When I had some downtime between journaling and sleep, we played some video games. It was cool not only trying to play on a platform I wasn’t used to playing on at home, but I wanted to play the game in French to help me hear and understand it.
One thing I did notice about my host family as well as the French students is their perspective on smoking. I would think that if one of my parents saw me smoking out of the blue they would scold me and possibly convince me to quit and even seek help. This is something the French do not do. On numerous occasions I saw some of my host family members smoking together and having a conversation. I am used to having individuals who smoke try to keep the habit a secret from certain family members but this was the first time I saw it as an accepted activity. I would assume the same concept applies for alcoholic beverages. I was expecting to see this anyway, but the French adolescents do not drink to get drunk; they enjoy their drinks when hanging out with their friends. I had the opportunity to hang out with Thibault’s friends. They usually only had a couple small drinks. It wasn’t anything like a bar or club you would find in America; the atmosphere seemed more like a business lounge; it had coffee tables, chairs and couches. There was music but it wasn’t too loud to the point you couldn’t hold a conversation. After about two hours, they arranged to have their parents pick them up from town. I think this is a much safer approach in comparison to our society. French teens are neither rebellious nor dramatic like their American counterparts; based on what I had observed there isn’t a need to act out. Overall, the things French adolescents are allowed to do would certainly shock any American parent. The level of tolerance was already exceeded and to the level of acceptance. It was just amazing how different it felt for me, an American raised to think and feel one away about all drugs (which leans more towards the negative side) I was fascinated at the level of acceptance – not tolerance, but acceptance – of these habits by family members, friends and even strangers.
Although this next little blurb doesn’t apply to my host family, I want to squeeze this last bit in here. I could not help but notice how children were so well behaved in France. Not once did I see a tantrum from a toddler, and no child carried on crying about wanting anything. I don’t really know what the parents tell their children over there but I would love to know what their parenting secret is and how it works!