The Differences

Differences are starting to become noticeable.  Even Elizabeth said last night, “I think we need to start eating later.  All our neighbors are eating later than us.”

Meals and food seem to be the obvious difference.  While, at first, the lines out the bakery every evening and busy markets every morning signaled that people are eating fresh food at their meals (put a mark in the plus column), what it signals to me now is the French buy groceries almost every day (a big check in the minus column).  It seems people stop at the grocery store each day, purchasing one or two small bags of food.  Because I don’t want be at the grocery store every day, it means we are the obvious American family, lugging bags brimming full of food all the way home and collapsing in chairs at the end of our mile jaunt, hands throbbing from the bags that have cut into our palms all the way home.  A pretty picture, no?

A good difference is the fresh market food.  We aren’t in the heart of the city, so our market doesn’t have marked up prices because of tourists or convenience.  Just authentic butchers and bakers.  Pretty flowers.  Fresh eggs and cheese.  I love unwrapping the crisp wax-lined paper to reveal my odd shaped chunk of sweet butter in the morning.  So much more appealing than snapping off the plastic lid of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”.

Some of the other differences are not so much France vs. US but city vs. not.  People don’t have yards and there aren’t big public pools with water slides.  So when it reaches 100 degrees, as it did this past Saturday and Sunday, peoples’ feet are in the fountains.  And public transportation?  Well, everyone takes it and we love it.  The Metro, buses, local trains, and Velib (the bike exchange program) aren’t just for moving foreigners and tourists.  Business people, families, teens, and students pour out of the stations at every turn.  So great.

Other differences we have noticed in our short time so far:

We miss public libraries!  We had hoped to get library cards to the American Public Library in France.  Um, not for 170 euros: yikes.  The next time you step into a public library, give a quick thanks to Andrew Carnegie and all who continue to support this great national resource.

Since when did Paris move so far north???  I am the only one that just assumed it was further south than Wisconsin?  Seriously, it is light until almost 10pm and we’re two months past the Summer Solstice.  I’m gearing up for a dark winter.

No public restrooms.  Well, not many.  And not unless you pay.  We force everyone into the bathroom (not at the same time) before we head out anywhere.  The same goes for limited drinking fountains.  Bring along water, people!

And you know what else?  They say Paris is the city for dogs.  But you really can’t take dogs into many of the parks, which is interesting.  Yes, they are on the sidewalks and the trains, but my little pooch would love to settle down into some cool grass one of these afternoons.  When we walk by the little sand pits on the sidewalks where dogs are supposed to stop, he does give us a look like, “You’re kidding me.”

Differences are good, though, right?  This is why we are doing this, isn’t it?  Live a little, learn a little?  It will be interesting to see how our perspectives change during the next 10 months.

P.S.  I miss my ice cold skim milk.

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 12 Comments

Post navigation

12 thoughts on “The Differences

  1. Barb

    My mouth is watering at the thought of the butter.

  2. Colleen Hartman

    Oh how we love reading your blogs! Doc usually gets to it first and calls me when he finds one. He just got started reading this one and his ride came…another insurance meeting ! I’m going to have to go down stairs where we have a big map and look at latitude as I’m surprised at your tale of how long it stays light. Interesting. Our evening meal at 5 would probably be an afternoon snack in Paris!LOL Where are the kids in the swing picture? Looks like fun!

    • Kelley

      Colleen, the kids are swinging at jardin d’acclimation in the Bois de Bologne, a park larger than Central Park that is a couple stops from where we live. The kids really are on the verge of being too old for this little section of the park but had fun all the same.

      I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. It is keeping us entertained!

  3. Mary

    Great photos, Kel! And great thoughts…sounds like you are all handling culture shock well. It’s so great you can do this as a family. You always have someone to talk to and be with…different than going abroad on your own. (although I would bet that your kids will be all over that when they are older). Sarah reminds me of YOU! Your description of how she is taking this in stride reminds me of you especially in our Disney days! Love it!

  4. Bruce Hoffmeier

    What great pictures. Where are the kids swinging? Looks like they are having a great time. Love your blog about the good and not so convenient differences from what you are used to. Knowing your family, you are already well into the adjustments.


  5. Karen Hoffmeier

    What a great blog again this morning. I thought you had a grocery cart in your garage for transporting the grocery items. Do you need a couple of cloth bags as they are easier to carry? Love the picture of the swinging kids…..where are you? Poor,Chili, I wish he could romp in the park. Contact Kirk and see where he takes his dogs. Maybe he will invite you to the house!

    • Kelley

      We do have our cloth bags and other roll-up bags I keep in my purse and, yes, we have a grocery cart but today, for example, we were coming off the Metro after spending all day in the park so didn’t bring it with us.

      I did reach out to Kirk last week but I’m sure they are on holiday for the month of August. I think he said they spend a lot of August in Italy.

  6. Pat Foote

    J’aime lire vos ecritures. Vos aventures m’interessent beaucoup. Quand j’étais a Paris, j’adorais les patisseries. Elles son delicieuse, n’est-ce pas?

    • Kelley

      Now, that is not even fair! You’re supposed to be a Spanish teacher, not an expert in French, too! Thank goodness for Google Translate. 🙂

      And, yes, the pastries and bread are two of my favorite things.

      Someday I will write a post in French…all on my own!

  7. Jill Driscoll

    What a great adventure! Your blog is now bookmarked and I’ll be following you… thanks for letting us live vicariously through you!

  8. Kathie

    Looks like you are settling in. I can’t even tell you how jealous I am. I love Paris. I love Europe. Sigh. I will live through you all year. 🙂 I love the blog. I love your kids’ perspectives too. They are so great! When does school start. I can’t wait to hear about that!!!!! Love ya!

  9. Linda

    Hi Kelley,

    Your blog is very entertaining. I was considering going to a movie this afternoon but your blog may have transported me to Paris. I ran in the rain this morning. It was beautiful even though we were wet. Jamie and I have been running hills on Duany once a week. It is only 6 more days until I run the Minocqua Marathon. I can’t believe summer is nearly over. When do your kids start school? I”m happy to hear that all of you are adjusting well. Have fun learning about the French routines & traditions.


We love hearing from you! Give us a shout or a "like" if this post made you smile.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: