Hans van der Kruijf, Sunday, 17 September 2017
Life in France
As if time has stood still, that's the way francophiles prefer to see life in France.
A baker who prepares fresh croissants early in the morning. A 2CV driving over a country road lined with sycamore trees. Grape pickers in the
vineyards. A village hotel on a small square with a fountain and a Logis de France. And in the evening for a few francs an abundant farmer's meal
with wine as much as you like. But that France is becoming increasingly difficult to find, it's retreating in inhospitable corners, on the Auvergne
plateaus or in mountain valleys that are difficult to reach and where tourists do not come. The France of TGV, ADSL, SMS, Le Web, Les Hypers,
Formula-1, and MacDo is advancing. But don't look at what was, look at what is.
Breakfast (petit déjeuner)
Bread and coffee, that's the ordinary French breakfast. When you order a café you get a little cup of expresso. A café creme or café-au-lait is
coffee with milk. The French are surprised when scrambled eggs or boiled eggs are ordered for breakfast, not to mention other foreign breakfast
habits. The large hotel chains such as Novotel, Mercure and Ibis offer large breakfast buffets.
The lunch, the déjeuner, is served between 12:00 am and 1:00 pm. The country comes to a complete standstill between 12 and 2 hours. Everything is
closed, although more and more shops in the cities are still open. In the south, they do not open until 3 or 4 o' clock in the afternoon. If there
are opening hours on the door: Add 15 minutes!
This traditional pattern is increasingly being abandoned: both men and women work, there is less time to prepare meals in the morning hours. The
Macdonalds (Macdo, France's only country in the world not to be a market leader, but in fierce competition with the Belgian Quick chain) is gaining
ground for the quick bite in the afternoon.
The aperitif (' l' apèro') is the drink in advance, somewhere between 6 and 8 am, at the beginning of the evening. The drinking often passes quietly
into the eating event, with a regular supply of small snacks. It is not uncommon for an aperitif to end in the night.
Between 8 and 10 o' clock, a light meal with a salad and fries is in the French program, but it is not uncommon to use two full meals a day.
In the evening the shops are open until 7 or 8 o' clock and the supermarkets until 9 or 10 o' clock.
Evening activities do not begin in the south before 9 am: bands play on the terraces in the holiday resorts until deep into the night. At the edge of
the tourist resorts, there is often a lunac park, a permanent fun fair.
Also, circuses and cascadeurs (stuntmen) regularly give performances on car parks. Where and when is indicated on giant billboards and loudly
announced with sound cars. Although the weather in the south from May to September is very nice, the holiday season runs punctually from 1 July to 31
August. Before and after, there is the silence of the winter in the holiday resorts, and there are many closed places. Late in the evening, it's time
for the nightclub (boites de nuit), which in France are usually located in a remote place far away from urban areas. Use of soft drugs and XTC are
well established but not legal.
A Frenchman goes to church three times in his life: When he is baptized, when his daughter marries and when he dies.
Despite this low level of involvement, the church in France still occupies a prominent place in society, certainly in the countryside.They are all
Catholic, but there are Protestant enclaves in the Languedoc, where in the Middle Ages the Huguenots sought protection against the Inquisition.
The Sundays in France are filled with activities. In the villages, there is always a baker and a presse open until 12 o' clock. After all, you must
have fresh bread every day and gamble on the horse race (the tièrce). In many cafés is a corner for the bookmaker organization P. M. U. Often there
is a Sunday morning market to buy fresh meat, chickens, and ducks. Fresh often also means 'alive'.
When the weather is beautiful, the Frenchman loads his whole family, a 60-litre cool box, tables and chairs in his car for a small picnic in the
province. Because food is the most important thing in the life of a Frenchman, it is not enough to have a simple snack, so there is a complete meal
prepared by the housewife. In the meantime, the spouse is doing a bit of cycling, fishing or hunting with his friends. After lunch - especially in
the warm south - the early afternoon is spent sleeping. After 4 hours, life returns to the streets. Then it is time for family entertainment.