Today is my 68th day living with a French family, I can safely say that I still don’t fully understand the French ‘home culture’. During our first group meeting on my Union group’s first day in Rennes, France, we were given a little insight into French culture.
Our British/French program director of sorts explained to us what it would be like during our first days. He said that our families were prepared to give us some space to settle in, and what we should do while living in someone else’s home. He told us that the French had long, drawn out meals with lots of time for discussion, and that French mothers would hate it if they found you peeking in the cabinets for an afternoon snack. He told us that here in Rennes, if you smiled at someone of the opposite sex on the metro or in town, it didn’t mean you were being friendly, rather it gave them permission to come home with you, and not just to make sure you got there safely.
At first I was very overwhelmed with all this new information I was going to have to remember, but I quickly realized that not all French families are the same. While there are students in my group whose families give them tons of space and serve them 6 course meals, mine is not like that. By no means is my family sub-par or do I feel like I’m missing out, my family gives me everything I need and accommodates me very well, they are simply a little different from the French ‘norm’. I’ll give you a little peek into my daily routine with my family…
Every morning I wake up on my own accord and head downstairs for breakfast. If my host family has eaten before me or not, they always have my place set at the table. So every morning I am welcomed by a clean glass, spoon, knife, my green and white striped bowl, and everything I need for breakfast. After breakfast I walk to the metro to head to class or into town, where I see my friends and grab something for lunch, either from the grocery store or a cheap sandwich place in the center of town. On most days, I head back home after class and lunch and hang out in my room, browsing facebook and doing homework. Around 8pm, I am called down for dinner. The dinners in my family are quite simple; we eat some bread and salami as an appetizer, then the main course (chicken, pasta, roast beef, quiche…), and then cheese and bread. Very simple. At both lunch and dinner, my host parents kill at least one bottle of wine between the two of them, and one baguette per meal (that’s one French stereotype that is so accurate).
For the most part, my host family gives me some space to do what I’d like. Every night it never fails, my host mother tells me that I can come downstairs if I want and watch TV with them, because ‘being in my room alone is no fun’. So each night I try to get some homework done, but a few times a week I wander downstairs and sit in front of the fire watching and trying to understand some strange French movie or documentary.
All in all, I think I’ve landed the perfect family for me. They give me space when I need it, and are always willing to include me in whatever they are doing. Once, when asking what I wanted for a packed lunch one day, my host father told me they treat me like their own daughter when I mentioned how nice it was that he would make me a sandwich. Being so far away from my real home, it’s nice to be around people who work so hard to make me comfortable. Living with a host family really makes a difference on a term abroad, and I feel like I’m getting the most out of my time here because of them, I wouldn’t have it any other way!