The French are lazy. It’s a well known fact. The contract for a language assistant is seven months, but for two months of that you will be on holiday and for probably most of the rest you will be on strike. I have two weeks of holiday in February and two in April, and it is so tempting to come back, but I’ve resolved to stay in France until the end of my contract. Knowing that I won’t be back in the UK for four months, I decided to make a list of the things I miss most in the hope that someone will take pity on me and send me a pack of hobnobs. At the least it might remind anyone who is taking a year abroad next year not to forget their favourite teabags.
Number one – proper milk. Someone asked me the other day if I would rather never eat cheese again or never have oral sex again. I went with never eating cheese again. I would be a bit sad but I can live without cheese. However, if I had to choose between tea and sex, I think I would rather never have sex ever again than lose the miraculous healing powers of an enormous mug of tea. Tea is just not the same with long life milk. You still get that ‘Ahh…’ moment with the first sip, but it soon hits you that there is something funny going on. It just doesn’t taste the same.
Number two – Sambuca. The French do not understand binge drinking. Their idea of a wild, drunken night is my idea of a quiet, civilised drink with friends. I did see a bloke throwing up on the tram last Saturday night, but it was only midnight for heaven’s sake. Poor effort. I miss being in Smack with my arms all sticky from failing to get the whole shot in my mouth. When I step off the plane home my best friend is going to be waiting for me at the airport with a chilled bottle of Sambuca and two shot glasses. (I am aware that missing binge drinking means I have a problem and need help, but hey, I am Welsh, it’s my cultural heritage to be a drunk.)
Number three – Topshop. French shops are appalling. French men are usually well dressed but the women frequently walk around sporting enormous woollen ponchos and other bizarre items. The worst are t-shirts with weird English phrases written on them, things like ‘I’m so cute!’ and ‘Your under arrested!’ Thank god for the internet and over-seas delivery.
Number four – good music. In France, if you like the Kooks you’re really hip and obscure, the ‘alternative’ kids at school listen to U2, and it is compulsory to love rap music. Last week my insane neighbours made me watch Notorious (2009 biopic of Christopher Wallace a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.), and demanded that I translate all the rapping for them. A difficult task, since the raps don’t actually mean anything at all. The radio and shop music are still stuck in July of last year.
Number five – it being reasonable behaviour to choose to be vegetarian. Eating out is impossible and eating in is a challenge. When I explain that I don’t like the idea of eating other animals, people look at me like I’m the biggest freak to ever walk the planet. In four months I have only met one French vegetarian.
Now be warned.