I have gained an understanding of many aspects of French culture while studying abroad in Cannes.
Here are some of the many cultural norms I’ve learned about or adapted to while in France:
I have learned proper etiquette. I have started to adjust to a new way of life, the metric system, and a new way of telling time (24 hour time, or military time).
I’ve also learned a lot about stereotypes. When thinking about French culture and people, many Americans make the assumption that French people are rude. However, I have come to find it is completely different once you actually get to know the locals, like talking to shop owners and making small talk with servers at restaurants. It has also been interesting to observe how locals here in Cannes view America, and many Americans in general. I have learned from my Resident Director and my French teacher that many French people believe Americans smile too much! I never thought I would hear that, because it is so common for us when we exchange glances with people on the street to smile or at least acknowledge their presence. I am notorious for this — I absolutely love holding conversations in public.
One cultural norm that I am not totally used to is the generous amount of affection people in Cannes show to one another. People aren’t afraid to love openly, and that is something I enjoy heavily.
Another thing I find interesting — but I am not complaining — is the consumption of bread in France. Bread is practically served with every meal in France — petit déjeuner, déjeuner and dîner. Even when the meal is served on bread, there is bread. Now that I’m well into my study abroad experience in Cannes, I can say confidently that I am almost entirely made up of wine, cheese, and bread. However, I have acclimated and adjusted to the diet here.
In Cannes, a typical breakfast would be café (coffee), bread with marmalade, and occasionally cheese or a croissant of some sort. Eating seems to be a formal even. Shop owners close down from anywhere to 1-4 hours for lunch, and reopen later in the evening at about 7:00 or 8:00 PM. Because there is such a large emphasis to lunch, many restaurants do not start serving dinner until 7:30 PM.
Since studying abroad, I’ve learned that when experiencing new countries and all cultures, it is a matter of observing people and understanding that we all different and everybody has their own way of doing things. What a person does in their daily life is often dependent on the region they were born in, and so many other factors. By booking weekend trips to other countries, it has given me a broad sense of culture in France, and has made me miss Cannes every time I leave!