Our Family’s (2nd) Year in the South of France
Kids and Castles - Our year with kids in the South of France

This is NOT Polly Platt’s France

I turned 40 this week.

Before coming to France, I researched French culture. I talked to people who had spent time in France and read as many books as I could including Polly Platt’s seminal book on life in France, French or Foe. One thing was consistent – don’t expect to have a social life. Not that anyone said the French are unfriendly, just that it took them time to warm up and one year simply would not be enough.

Polly Platt obviously NEVER visited our village. The people here couldn’t be more lovely, warm, and welcoming.  And to the whole family – not just to JM whose “cute French-Canadian accent” seems to charm the ladies (who knew?).

(Side comment:  Despite what Polly Platt says, it is OK to use the restroom when you visit a French person’s house!!!)

Even though we’ve only been here for a few months, we knew enough people to have a party to celebrate my 40th birthday. Naturally we have mostly met people who have kids the same age as ours and who speak at least some English – it turns out there are three English teachers in our village and they were all here.

Forty Tea Lights for my Fortieth Birthday

After the charcuterie (pate-style meat) but before the fromage (cheese), the kids summoned the adults to see the Spectacle (show) they had just made up. They had taken our “reuse toy box” and made a family of very clever puppets:  a king, a queen, a princess, a policeman, and a pig.  They even had a program listing the puppeteers and their roles, with a special English edition just for me. All the parents had been assigned seats on a specific color of yoga mat. I was completely charmed.

Garbage Puppets

We’re really enjoying our village and the people. I especially love the kids, who simply do not get that I don’t understand French. So they just talk normally, and I tell them “lentement” (slowly) and “répéter” (repeat) and use charades until we figure it out. The same exchange can be very awkward with an adult, but the kids don’t care and it’s great practice for me.

Not to paint everything in the village as idyllic. As we get to know people better we are seeing more of the disagreements, politics, and personalities. Apparently they’ve been trying to name the streets in our village for two years now but can’t agree on the names even though there are only two streets! And that charming puppet show the kids put together – we never actually saw the final performance because the kids started to bicker.

The one benefit of not speaking French is that I’m completely oblivious to any issues!!!

7 Responses to “This is NOT Polly Platt’s France”

  1. Veronica says:

    I agree, and I think part of the misconception stems from the fact that many of these books/blogs are written by expats who live in Paris. Paris is _not_ France. It’s like generalising about the UK from the way people behave in London, or thinking all Americans act like New Yorkers. In our small village we’ve had just the same experience as you: many open,welcoming people who invited us into their homes from day 1.

  2. Val says:

    I’m sorry I missed the Spectacle! Sounds like a lovely birthday and an even lovelier part of France to be living.

  3. GBK Gwyneth says:

    Sounds like a great party! Happy Birthday!

  4. Erika says:

    Happy Birthday! I love the puppets! What an awesome birthday. The planning is exactly what Jessica has been doing for Thanksgiving. She has created popsicle stick characters and several different scenes using paper with a slit cut in it. She is very excited about the production later this week. Now if I can only keep her from telling everyone exactly what they should do, it might work out OK.

  5. vered says:

    Sometimes I miss the first few months after Ido and I had moved to California. There’s a huge sense of freedom in NOT having a community – in being a stranger and not getting involved in local politics or caring about what others will think. There’s loneliness too, but at least for a short while, I felt that the freedom was worth it.

    But we are social creatures, and eventually we do get involved and we do need a community around us. It sounds like you’ve got the best of both worlds over there because of the limited time you will stay: you enjoy the community around you, but you don’t get involved in the ugly side of it.

  6. Maha says:

    Happy birthday! Sounds like you had a perfect day!

  7. Claude says:

    Joyeux anniversaire (en retard), félicitations pour tes 40 ans et meilleurs souhaits pour toutes les années à venir. Claude