Aside from the most noticeable cultural differences, there are many aspects of daily life in France and the general way of being that are, for me, a welcome departure from how I lived in the U.S.
Right now, I’m thinking about the fact that we were able to get a composter for 10 euros (about $12 USD) and that we benefit from a comprehensive recycling system. The department that collects the trash even puts out a newsletter and little brochures explaining which things you can recycle, which things to compost, and what has to be thrown away.
I’m thankful that we have this here in our small city because even in Toulouse, it was nearly impossible to recycle since the dumpsters marked for it were just filled with garbage bags instead of items sorted for later reuse.
Aside from being able to recycle, there are many kinds of public transportation that are really affordable. For example, for 2 euros, I can go into the mountains on a regional bus, or I can take the train to Toulouse for 13-26 euros.
Because our city doesn’t have that many bike paths in the downtown area, cyclists gather to ride around town in a protest every month. They’re showing up to remind people that this is still an issue that they want resolved.
And instead of using air conditioning in the summer, the house we rent has thick walls made of concrete bricks that are well insulated. I am able to open our windows at night and then close them in the early morning to keep in the cool air for the rest of the day. If it’s really hot, we use our shutters.
In France, every house or apartment has shutters to help keep it warmer or cooler depending on the season and as a means of added privacy. In the States, I don’t think I ever saw a house that had working shutters, which could really help people in case of storms or just to help reduce their energy consumption all year round.
I know that in some states, Oklahoma, for example, it wouldn’t be possible to air out your house at night, even if it were made of the same materials as the residences in France. This is because it’s too hot and humid, even at night. But I do think that if houses were made of different materials and people had shutters that they could drastically cut back not only on their electricity and gas bills but also on how much CO2 they put out into the environment.
There’s also a strong regional pride here about what is grown, produced, or made in each local area. Here, we have white beans, a certain kind of pork, a hearty stew called “garbure” (see above), and many varieties of honey. There’s even a small mountain town about an hour’s drive from where we live that uses their honey to make organic cosmetics and other products that are sold in local pharmacies.
I am working toward recycling and composting effectively as well as buying as much as I can that is either grown or made in France. I am thankful that regional pride encourages me to look for the good things that we produce here each season and to only buy what I can realistically consume or preserve.
Is France paradise? For me, I would say, yes or that it’s the closest I’ve come to it so far. But I know it’s not for everyone. The reason I love it so much is that the values people have here, for the most part, match those that are most important to me.
French people do plenty of things that I think are funny or just plain unnecessary, but they are good people, and the most important thing in any interaction is your relationship to the other person. More on that later 😉