12 June 2008
A rant, and no I'm not nice today

I’m probably going to piss off a lot of my readers today, because this applies to a lot of them. But I just don’t care. I really don’t. Your complaining is making my eyes bleed every single day, and I just don’t feel up to it anymore.

France. Wow! Is it possible to pick apart a country any more than you have? Unemployment, customer service, the weather, the people, the lack of, dare I say it, English speakers, the food, the taxes, all of it. There is not one single part of France that I haven’t seen torn apart in the Blogosphere. Not one.

You bitch about child care—how unavailable it is, how inconvenient the waiting lists are, how one must run two blocks in the rain to the door because there’s no parking. Oh dear! Funny, most of you aren’t actually working, so of course you’re not on the priority list. Have you even explored the other various methods of child care? The nounous? The au pair possibility? A crèche familiale? Better yet, have you, in this great plan you have of bashing France to make the quasi-unattainable dream of returning back the The States seem so great, priced out American child care?

Parking is a pet peeve for a lot of you, too—most of you who live in cities or larger towns with public transport. USE IT! Christ, whenever I go into one of those big places, I take advantage of the park and ride. Beating your head against the wall over parking in France is just stupid! So what if the bus stop is two blocks from your appointment! Do you honestly think you are going to park any closer?

Unemployment? Gah! This leads me right to my next bitch point. OK, it is hard to find a job in France. I’ll give you that. It’s also very easy to not find a job in France. And half of you aren’t even honestly looking too damn hard. I managed to find a job within months of being allowed to work. Me! In Haute Marne! Where there are cows, fields, and more cows! Why? Because I speak the language—French that is. If I had a penny for every time I heard (or read) someone complaining about their own French skills, or rather their lack thereof, I could afford to send you all back wherever it was that you came from. Look, I spoke maybe two words of French when I got here. I wasn’t brought up bilingual. I took classes, I learned, and oddly, I managed to integrate myself into France. I didn’t spend all my free time sitting around with my anglo, English-speaking friends pissing and moaning about how hard it all is. I bit the bullet, I adapted, I struggled, sure, but I got through it. And now? Wow! I speak French, not perfectly, no, far from that, but well enough to play a major role in the local tourism board, and the village’s comité de fêtes. I can get through an interview for the newspaper, write letters and even a dissertation for school, do everything by phone, and have a real conversation with my French friends—yes, one can have real French friends—but it’s rather hard to see that when you’re constantly stuck with your regular expat group speaking your native tongue all the time.

I don’t even have any more problems with customer service, including the powers that be at the prefecture. Why? I’ve learned how to speak to them. In addition to learning the spoken language here, you’ve got to know the unspoken one. You can’t expect them to be just like Americans doing the same job because—NEWS FLASH—You Ain’t In Kansas Anymore, Dororthy! Yes, they are pains in the ass. Yes it’s horrible that you have to run around doing everything for them. Deal! That’s how it is here. They’re not picking on you and your English-speaking-ness. They do it to everyone. That’s just how it is. Acknowledge and move the fuck on.

And as far as American food goes, the raw ingredients are out there! Go forth and learn how to actually cook something without just opening a box. Chicken wings? Doable! Cheese cake? Totally doable! Chocolate chip cookies? Cut up a friggin’ bar of chocolate instead of whining about how tiny the chips are here.

I just get so frustrated with all of you out there who come here, for whatever reasons, and then get so sad that it’s not at all like back home. And then you get stuck there, mired down in how French France really is. Of course it is! So shut up, and either adapt, integrate and move on with your life, or pack your shit and go the hell home—and complain how much you miss France. Which begs the question: Is it France, or is it YOU?

Oh, one other tiny little thing that really makes my skin crawl—those fields of tiny yellow flowers you see in May? It’s RAPE, not canola. Canola, as a word, didn’t even exist before 1978, when it was coined from Canada Oil Low Acid—indicating the low levels of uric acid. It was originally trademarked but is now considered a generic word for the OIL obtained from a very specific, now mostly genetically modified type of rape. .

Thank you. I’ll put away my soap box now.
posted by Doc at 11:40 | Permalink |


  • At 12:48, Blogger Ms Mac

    Oh, I'm a bit afraid now.

    I completely agree with you about everything. Of course.

    Especially the rape.

  • At 13:40, Blogger Samantha

    Man, I must not be reading the right blogs - cuz this is like the third post I've read recently about someone complaining about how much everyone else is complaining about France, and I haven't read any anti-France posts of late. And I am so curious to know who wrote about only being able to find tiny chocolate chips, because this post has been mentioned each time!

  • At 16:27, Blogger Mia

    When I grew up in Europe, my father was in the US military. But my parents made sure that we learned the language of the country we were living in and became part of the local town. In my mother's case, she learned just enough Italian to be able to communicate while my brother and I learned it fluently. My playmates were not American kids, they were the kids from the town we lived in. Even when we lived on base, the same rules applied. Guess who has the best memories of growing up in Europe? My brother and I because we were part of the local town. When I talk to other military kids who grew up like we did, their memories are of not liking it because no one spoke English there. Their loss. Become part of your town and learn to speak the language.

  • At 16:47, Blogger The Late Bloomer

    I hear ya, I hear ya Doc... To be honest, this is the kind of thing I've had rolling around in my head for months, but I've never had the guts -- nor the gumption, I guess! -- to put it out there. So more power to you... I sometimes get really tired of reading about the complaints too, even though I recognize that life is definitely not easy in France. But life isn't easy ANYWHERE, if you ask me! There are always going to be the difficulties and challenges, and we just have to make the best of it under the circumstances. I'm often frightened of what the future will hold (and my boy likes to tease me about my frightful fear of pretty much everything!), because I know that raising a child isn't easy wherever you may live, but I try to tell myself that I will do the best I can, no matter what happens. And I hope I will find the support and love I need from those around me.

    I guess I've always figured that I signed up for this; I made the choice to be here in the end, and that it's pointless to complain about things in the end... Of course, I guess some gals haven't necessarily made the choice if they were brought over with their husbands, etc... Still, when you put things in perspective, in a lot of ways we should consider ourselves LUCKY to live in France, of all places, and particularly to have children here, compared to so many other places in the world...

    Anyhoo, I guess I've also never been one for spouting out about things on my blog; it's just not my style. But trust me, I DO run into pain-in-the-ass situations! My life is FAR from perfect. Yesterday was a fine example: I got yelled at by a woman in a minivan as I crossed the street in my town at a CROSSWALK (passage clouté, I guess they call it -- for us pedestrians!) because she claimed I should have looked "surtout quand je suis enceinte"!! I was flabbergasted... I was on the crosswalk, for God's sake, and she was turning to the right onto the crosswalk -- doesn't she know the code de la route?! I think she was just pissed because she had to actually stop her car, put on the brakes and all...

    Anyhoo, that's my rant for the day. Of course, that scenario could have happened anywhere, so I try not to blame it on France! Even if it did make my blood boil for more than an hour...

  • At 17:35, Anonymous pat

    Thank you so very much for the huge smile you put on my face today with your post!! Been doom and gloom around my place lately but certainly not because I am in France!! Even though my French skills are lacking (but I am living just fine here with what I know), I could not agree with you more with everything you say here!

  • At 17:38, Anonymous pat

    Just another note - when I moved here, I so missed my favorite candy - Reese's peanut butter cups! Very difficult to get here or else very expensive. I learned to make them myself with what ingredients you find here. Voila!!!

  • At 17:56, Anonymous Alison

    Sam said almost exactly what I was going to say.

  • At 19:22, Anonymous Anonymous

    LOL - i agree with all of that

    except the "customer service" part

    it is unconscionable that the internet company (or cell phone company or whoever) screw up your service and make YOU pay 30cents a minute to talk to someone to get it fixed. WRONG WRONG WRONG

    (even my French father in law starts to lose it over this - and he is the nicest most easy going person you have ever met)

    "Client Roi" my ass

    where did i see this - client in a store getting bad service points to the "Client Roi" sign - the clerk then says - AH, but there has not been a king in France for over 200 years - LOL


  • At 22:25, Blogger buzzgirl

    Awesome. I would looooove to know what set this off! Haha!

  • At 09:28, Blogger PAULINE

    Doc, you're not the only one who thinks this, but you forgot a couple of expat complaints (how I detest that term ‘expat’ ) What about these ones that make me want to scream.

    - The air-conditioning and clothes dryer (or lack of)
    - The size of the fridges and the fact they don’t have an ice dispenser
    - The pitiful state of the French education system. Too formal, too strict doesn’t let the children be themselves WTF. It’s school not Club Med
    - The terrible French TV and sitcoms that are dubbed in French. Well you are in France after all.

    . . . I’m sure that the list is endless and others can come up with some cringe worthy examples.

  • At 09:41, Blogger jchevais

    Am I allowed to call it Canola... seeing as how I'm from Canada and old habits are hard to break? :-)

    Well... I do think that I would be sad if I were to leave France...

    however, I'm still up in arms about the French education system... My daughter is absolutely convinced that she's STUPID and that is not on. Not one bit. I don't want her to get lost in the system. It has nothing to do with being "Club Med". School itself shouldn't have a little girl crying about how much of an eejit she's made to feel like... and I'm worried that it won't get better.

  • At 10:49, Blogger Antipo Déesse

    Your soap box HAD been getting a little dusty.

    I'm glad you cleaned it off.

  • At 17:47, Blogger GL'sD

    Damn, but I do like a good rant. Thanks

  • At 17:48, Blogger Angie in Divide

    Well said! I even agree and I'm English. I live in the USA and I am married to an American and I actually feel the same way about foreigners bitching about America and life in America and how stupid, arrogant, overbearing _______ (insert any other insulting adjective they can find) the Americans are, and how they're pissed off that they can't buy, I don't know, clotted cream or heinz baked beans or some other such triviality. There is nothing wrong with having a little nostalgia for home and missing stuff you grew up with but why bitch and moan and be miserable and insult good people around you with sweeping inaccurate generalizations? So I think you're definitely saying the same thing "Just bugger off back where you came from if you hate it so much" -- Exactly!

  • At 22:36, Blogger The Duchess

    Wow! You've pretty much summed it up there. Where is this post about the tiny chocolate chips, anyway?

  • At 22:37, Blogger Epiphany

    You're like Dixie Carter in those Designing Women episodes. You know, the ones that happen once out of every 4-6 episodes, where she gets good and righteously pissed off and all action stops while she gives someone what for.

    Those were my absolute favorites. You go, Sassy!

  • At 04:59, Blogger misschris

    haha you crack me up doc. I just love you.

  • At 20:46, Blogger Lesley

    Hear hear. A thousand times hear hear!

  • At 11:16, Blogger Le Tigre in France

    Came over via the k&k podcast..

    I think you need to qualify it a bit though...

    I mean, are you talking about people that have been living here for 4-5 years and theoretically should be over the stages of culture shock but are still complaining?

    From the other 'expats' I've spoken to who have been here for a long time and are bloggers they told me they really get over speaking about France after awhile. It's not new anymore, they know the language and have gotten over the cultureshock, that urge to analysis and blog about the cultural differences is no longer there and it sounds like you too are obviously at that point. Their blogs tend to die off unless they are writing about other stuff. I think what was said on the podcast was really interesting..and I do think it's like a cycle..the newbies come, bitch and moan a little, either settle down or go home and then it repeats again.

    Anyhoo, I may still call 'rape' canola, that word doesn't sit well with me.

  • At 12:47, Blogger The Bold Soul

    Thanks for the kick in the ass about making more of an effort to improve my French language skills. I've studied since I was 13, lived here for a year and a half, and am now marrying a Frenchman with 3 kids (the 7 year old speaks no English) so I'm progressing more now than when I was just hanging out with my Anglophone ex-pat pals... but I still need to sign up for regular weekly classes to get stronger. Having said that, the 7 year old is a great "professeur" and always corrects me when I get the gender wrong.

  • At 23:06, Anonymous Debbie from Baltimore


    What can I say? You totally rock! I so admire your gonads for speaking out. Although I am not an expat, I have heard from countless Americans who have visited France and had nothing good to say about the French or their way of life. It's astounding to me that anyone would go to a foreign country and expect the people there not only to speak English, but to share American customs and political beliefs! I get so tired of defending the French to these people! Alas, since I live in the States, it's very difficult not to feel outnumbered. I just wanted to say that you, Vivi, and your fellow expat bloggers add something truly unique and valuable to the blogosphere. Please keep it up!