Everyone we encountered on our trip was friendly and welcoming. We understood we were traveling at a very busy time of year (late July to early August). Many of the places we visited were very busy and the staff was, understandably, doing the best they could. I tried to muddle through on my very limited French and I think people respected the fact I was trying. Almost everyone we encountered in hotels or restaurants spoke English way better that we spoke French.
One of the highlights of the trip was a special Trafalger-arranged dinner in Normandy at the home of 80-year-old Beatrice, who was one of the most charming people we met on the trip. She welcomed us to her farm, where we had dinner in a restored cow barn which had been a convent before the French Revolution.
Here are a few other observations about differences between life in France and America:
- The French “work to live” vs. our “live to work” attitude.
- Their wine and pastry are truly exceptional.
- They really love cheese and ham.
- Men and women pay attention to what they wear, and it is really nice.
- They are thinner. You do not see many obese people.
- Things slow down on Sunday’s, which is really nice for families.
- The kids seem more respectful and less pampered that their American peers.
- They pay attention to aesthetics. Cities and Villages compete to receive one to four flowers that designate how well their public spaces are maintained. This would be a great idea for the USA to adopt.
- The smoke a lot.
- They serve water in really small glasses and you never see water fountains.
- There is a lot of regional pride.
- It stays light much later – until after 10pm in the summer.
- The muslim women and men (about 10% of the population) dress traditionally and stand out from the non-muslims.