Sunday 28 June 2009

27 things you need to know to survive in France

On Friday she gave all her schoolbooks back and tomorrow, Monday, her teachers are administering the exams for the year above so she has no classes. On Tuesday it is the same thing - so on Wednesday, a half day for school in France and a finish of classes at 11.30, she is meant to return for study prior to the official last day of term, which is Thursday. Is that clear?

So my daughter tells me school is finished.

Parental responsibility at a time like this is confused, do I have to send an official absent letter to the school secretary or is the fact that the math's teacher left for the beaches of Spain last week considered enough?

When you move to France from England many things can be confusing, if you choose to become a parent even more so. If you combine these two changes then at some point you will find yourself going to the "Dance School's End of Term Dance Show" and when you understand how this works you are well on the way to understanding French society itself.

So, here are the things you need to know.

1.The Hip – Hop teacher won’t speak to the Ballet School teacher so they will organize the two events at the same time in two geographically distant places.
One of your children will be in both shows, the other only in one, and your wife will be in the other. And your mother-in-law will be staying who loves her grandson but hates continuous hip-hop noise.

2. Although the poster clearly states 8.30 as show time you should add AT LEAST 30 minutes.

2. When you arrive at 8, the theatre will be closed, at 8.15 you will notice that the Tai Chi teacher, one of the star performers in this years ballet school show, has just sat down with his family in the restaurant opposite and opened a bottle of wine.

3. You SHOULD take your seat in the theatre at 8.25 anyway.

4. At 8.45 the official photographer will arrive and kiss everyone in the front two rows and take his seat before he begins assembling equipment.

5. At 8.50 ask yourself why the locals, French, all have Spanish style fans.

6. At 8.51 return to the lobby and buy a programme to use as a fan.

7. At 8.52. the official video cameraman will abandon his post and exit.

8. At 8.53 the organizer will step onto the stage, the lights will go out and in the darkness you will be welcomed to the evening.

9. 8.54 the organizer departs, a spot light will then come on and illuminate where she had been standing.

10. NOTHING will happen for the next 5 minutes.

11. At 8.59 the show begins, the opening number will be the youngest dancers, average age 4, and the theme will be mermaids/fish and fishermen.

12. There will be one less fisherman than fish and the dance will be ensemble but pair choreography.

13. The partnerless fisherman will be centre stage.

14. The first half will finish at 9.45 and the organizer will announce a 5-minute interval.

15. The audience will leave the theatre, order drinks at the restaurant opposite where the Tai Chi teacher has started his main course.

16. At 10.15 someone will arrive at the restaurant from the theatre asking us to go back.

17. The second half will start at 10.30.

18. The second half technician, responsible for all sound and light cues and curtain openings and closing will not be the one who started the evening, nor will they have been to ANYof the rehearsals. He MIGHT be related to someone.

19. Somewhere in the second half the curtain will close, on a number as the audience applaud and the children wait to bow, the house lights will come on but this is NOT the end.

20. NOTHING will happen for 5 minutes.

21. The lights will go off, the curtains will open and the children will still be standing there.

22. Somewhere in the middle of a contemporary piece, the music will unexpectedly stop. The dancers will continue. 2 minutes later the music will start again and the dancers will stop. It MAY be part of the choreography.

23. The show will finish at 11.15.

24. The speeches thanking the president, the treasurer, the vice president, the vice treasurer, the woman who sewed the costumes, the brother of the vice president's brother AND the stranger in the technical box will start at 11.16.

25. You will leave the theatre at 11.45.

26. You will have to kiss everyone.

27. You will leave the car park at 12.30 am.

More about Living in France here.


Vicki Hollett said...

Ha! What a delightful posting! Just beautiful. And many congratulations on a great blog.

I remember touring round France once giving talks and in each town, the talks would start late. The organisers would explain it was due to a local 'courtesy time' custom. I'm not too sure what the expression was now (hope you can work it out) but it would be referred to as something like a 'petite quart de Lille' in Lille, and then a 'petite quart de Lyon' in Lyon and so on - so a custom peculiar to just one particular town, but seemingly operating over large swathes of France.

Janet Bianchini said...

A great humorous posting! I lived in Dijon for a year, so I got a little insight into the psyche of the French people.

popps said...

Hi Viki thanx for dropping in and for being complimentary.
I too am a fan of your blog and find it very interesting.
What you say reminds me that i have heard people speak in the same way about Toulouse, though i'm not sure it's a "quart" - i'll check. Maybe the south is an exception and gets longer.
Are folk in Philly punctual?

popps said...

Hi Jan, can i call you that?
Thanx for dropping in too, i was worried you had abandoned ship!
What did you do in Dijon?
If you don't know Niki's blog then have a look, i think you will like it. see it here

popps said...

oops, Vicki, not Niki - and Vicki i'm sorry i spelled your name badly.

Janet Bianchini said...

Thank you for introducing me to Vicki's blog. I like the way it is written and I'll be following it when I can.

I was a student at Dijon University for one year doing my "year abroad" thing for my French Degree. I had a great time and met lots of students from around the world, also studying French like me.

Jan(et) Ps I don't mind