When the plane touched down on French soil at 11:28 AM in August 20, 2015, I smiled and I said to myself, happy birthday Sylviane!
Yes, it’s been 15 years since I was last on French ground, almost to the day, and I guess that it was the Universe’s way of telling me happy birthday, because it was well over due.
When you remove yourself for that long from your own culture, you’re bound to feel strange when you get back. But at the same time, every little thing you hear and see seems very familiar and plunges you into memory lane.
Well, at least that’s what’s been happening to me.
So, how does it really feel to go back to my home country, also known as France, after 15 years?
Let me tell you…
The Little Things Long Forgotten Yet Still Here
Last weekend someone lent me a beautiful older house in the village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie (picture above), which is a middle age village where houses date from some 500 years ago and some.
Houses are made of huge stones, with walls about two feet wide. So we can say that they were built to last.
The village is very popular, located on top of a big rock with the Lot River running at the bottom of the cliff.
While it’s a touristic village, most tourists are French. Second and third, Spanish and Italians closely followed by British and Germans.
As you’re walking in the streets, though, the language that you hear most is French, and as I’m walking around hearing French I feel so strange.
How long is it been since I’ve heard French in the streets? I mean besides the streets of London… LOL!
I think that’s when it really hit me that I was, indeed, in France.
Just a couple days ago, I was at someone’s house and I recognized an ashtray style-shape from my childhood. A type of ashtray I haven’t seen in decades.
As I was reacting with excitement as we do when we see something from our childhood that was long gone from our day to day memory, but still located somewhere in our brain.
There was an 11-12 year old boy there who was asking his mother why I was so excited about an ashtray, and his mom said, well, this lady has spent half of her life in the United States, and right now she’s more American than she’s French, so she hasn’t seen something like that in a very long time.
The answer she gave to her son was a perfect one I thought.
I have somehow disconnected a bit, there’s no doubt about that.
Luckily I am in an area of France where people are extremely nice and friendly.
Usually, in France the south (except for the French Rivera) and the north (except for Paris and its region) it’s where you can find the nicest folks in the country. As a general rule. (No wonder lots of tourists find French being rude, they are visiting the two most notorious places in the country for having not so friendly people).
I am in South Western France, where the large majority of people are from here forever, and they have that very specific accent that we call “accent du midi” which means accent from the south.
While they are several different southern accents, they are all similar to a non-southerner. However southerners are keener into recognizing where the accent is from specifically.
The only part of southern France that doesn’t have that typical accent du midi is the French Rivera. All other parts of southern France have that delicious accent that you can recognized in a hart beat. Even though there a several different nuances of it, as I just mentioned.
However, as I was told by both an English and an Australian man, who both have a residence here, that accent makes it harder for a non-French speaker to understand. That doesn’t surprise me one bit.
French People and their Love for Wine
French people like to drink. There’s no secret about that. And drink they do here for sure.
Between the “aperitif” before meals and the wine during meals, and what we call the “pousse café” (the coffee pusher) which is another type of alcohol beverages, by the time you leave the table you’ll have had your share of alcohol. Even though, they do drink like that mostly when they have guests.
The difference between Europeans and Americans, I noticed, it’s that they have been drinking for so long that it doesn’t affect them as much.
What I mean is that you don’t see people drunk, they’re just fine.
Whether you’re in a pub in Scotland or England or at a French dinner, alcoholic beverages abound, but people don’t seem to be affected by it. I’ve never seen anyone out of control, whatsoever.
Plus they usually do have a designated driver if they have to drive after the party.
Even here, the police is very strict about drinking and driving, which is a good thing.
French Choice of Food
In 3 words…
Oh My Gosh!
Not that I didn’t know that already, but the variety of eatable things that you can find in France is simply flabbergasting, especially after 15 years of not having seen it.
For example, I was told by a local woman just a few days ago, that France has now over 400 cheeses. So, it means that if we were to taste one new cheese per day, it would take you about a year and a half to taste them all.
It’s too bad that it’s forbidden to take pictures inside those stores, because the cheese aisle is very impressive, and that doesn’t even include the cheese that they sell by the weight, which is another stand on its own.
After that, you have the aisle of yogurts with probably over a hundred different flavors and styles. To give you an idea, the store I was in the other day has probably 4 times the choice that you would find at Walmart, Target or Kroger in the yogurt aisle in the US.
The bakery and pastry corner is huge and you don’t even know where to look. It will take me my whole 10 months here to taste them all.
Then you have the fish and deli aisles with tons of choices as well.
Then you have all the syrups and other pain grilles which are products you can’t find in the US at all (believe me I’ve been looking for years).
I was oh so reminded that, indeed, France is the country of food.
Any English here?
People who do speak English in France, are usually people who have traveled to English speaking countries or if it’s required for their job, however, those who haven’t have the need do not speak English, especially over here, simply don’t speak English at all.
I don’t think that anybody speaks English at all in this region. And the younger ones who may be speaking some English would be speaking school English. You know, as good as your school French is.
So, if you come over here, it will be a great opportunity to learn French.
Like everywhere else, the country side little places have had the internet last, but it seems that the internet is everywhere now in France, even in the country south western side where I am now, which probably was one of the last places in France to have internet.
I live in a real estate that’s a bit remote and we have internet. Well, I wouldn’t be here if we didn’t.
I was informed that while we don’t have a slow or rapid internet here, it’s more like a weaker or stronger connection in cases where the installations are older.
As up to this year, because they have finally realized that WIFI is bad for public health, it is banned in kinder garden schools and day cares, and soon to be banned in other schools as well in France.
Yep, WIFI is bad for you.
Driving in France
Ah, driving in Europe!
Well, whether you’re going to Scotland, England, Ireland, The Netherland, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, German or France, etc… you’d better know how to drive manual speed cars.
Yep, European still like their 5 speed cars, and I’m yet to have asked someone here in Europe that told me that they’d rather drive automatic cars.
I’ve asked many folks throughout my travels and all said, that they didn’t like it.
I have no idea why, but I guess that a century of driving manual cars is a habit so entrenched that it won’t change any time soon.
Right now I’m driving a 5 speed manual 106 Peugeot that works pretty well. It’s funny considering that I’ve learned to drive on a 205 Peugeot and I’m driving with my original driver’s license.
Only since January 19th 2013 French drivers’ licenses need to be renewed every 15 years. Anyone owning a driver’s license before that date had it for life until they had to prove that they were still fit to drive later in life.
Anyone owning an old driver’s license, like me, has until 2033 to renew their license. So, in my case, I don’t feel that there’s much hurry to do that right now, so I’m using my original driver’s license.
Did France has Changed in 15 Years?
Maybe because so many people have told me that I would see a lot of change, getting back after so many years, I have not seen much change at all.
I still feel like I’ve left yesterday.
What made France 15 years ago is still what makes France today.
Maybe I’ll see more change later on as I travel across the country and go back to Lyon and Paris. I will see for myself and be sure to let you know.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Please, let me know in your comment.
23 thoughts on “How Does It feel To Go Back Home To France After 15 Years”
What a wonderful experience you are having. I like when you opened up this with the ashtray. I could just imagine the kind … So looked down upon here in America. he he he
The wine, the cheese…oh my gosh I’m hungry just thinking about it! The specific part of France where you are must be amazing! One of my friends has a home there and I feel like I’ve been there from the many stories we share..and now with you.
I enjoyed this share so much and know you are thrilled to be there. I am so happy for you.
Enjoy my friend!
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Wow, if you know someone here, you must come one day. It’s beautiful and people are so nice. Very friendly and open too. Not judgmental and helpful.
On Monday night we had a terrible storm with strong winds which brought down a few trees in the property I’m living in and others as well. At the early hours of the morning some neighbors rushed here to check on me. I thought that was so kind. They told me they had not seen this in decades and jokingly asked me if I brought that from the US 😉
What’s funny is that since I’ve been in Europe it’s not shopping that’s been tempting me, but buying food 🙂 Gosh that food I can’t find in the US is so freaking tempting LOL.
Glad you enjoyed the post, Donna and thanks for sharing it too.
I bet it was great to be back home. It’s a beautiful place. I love the picture of you and everyone sitting around what looks like a patio area. I bet there were some great conversations and lots of laughs.
I have to say the food looks incredible. Anytime I think of French food, the first thing that comes to mind are snails. But from what you shared, especially the desserts, the food looks yummy!
Thank you for sharing your journey with us! I hope you have a great time and safe travels my dear!
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Yes, this was an enclosed patio where we had dinner just before fireworks that the town had organized. We had a pretty nice view from there, and it was beautiful.
It’s a shame that people always think of snails relating to French food, because that’s not even something people eat often at all. Some maybe never. There’s so much, much more than that when it comes to French food, as I explained in the post.
Thank you for coming, commenting and sharing, my friend.
It was fun to read this post and I could see the excitement of being in France after so many years. It is interesting to confirm the French love for wine and looking at the picture, the food looks so yummy.
I enyoy your description of your tour in France and I di hope that in time, I will get a chance to experience too the love and warmth of the French.
Thanks for sharing. Take Care.
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Thank you so much for coming and I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
I certainly hope you could come one day in France as well.
Have a great weekend.
What a return you’ve had.
“Why is that lady getting so excited over an ashtray.” Lol
All that food sounds amazing, especially the yogurt isle and the desserts.
I still want to visit Coupvray. Will you ve anywhere near there? Would love to hear if you are.
Glad you are settling in so well. All you’ve described here is exactly the reason France has survived all this time. Such a tough place, a strong and proud and beautiful place.
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Well, I’m some 5 hours away from Coupvray, so no, I don’t think I’ll be going there at this time. While I’m going to go other places far away from where I am now, it’s because I have reasons to go there, but while Coupvray is not far from Paris, it’s a bit out of my way 🙂
If you were here with me, then I’d have a good reason to go there. though. I hope you’ll be going there on day.
Thanks for coming by,
The way you describe each sentence could make me feel how you enjoyed in France.
As far as I heard, France is one of the best places for drinking liquor or wines and eating variety of food… Especially most of the wines and Brandy are just awesome there, as they are the producers.
I would like to visit France but still haven’t got a chance but surely one day I’ll.
It’s really good to read this post and thanks for shared with all. Keep enjoy you days.
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Yes, While brandy is also made in norther European countries, Cognac and Armagnac, or even Eau de vie are some very popular French brandy alcoholic drinks that are usually served after banquet type meals.
I happened not to like this type of alcohol myself, but many people do 🙂
Hope you can visit France some day and enjoy all those little tasty pleasures 🙂
Thanks for coming.
Thanks so much for your mouth watering post about your return visit to France. As a confirmed Francophile I devoured every word.
Although I haven’t been to France for many years I still get to experience a little bit of France very day. This is because I live in a former French colony, and for sure the French influence lives on. Thank God!
But nothing can compare to the real thing and I am envious but happy that you reported your visit to us.
In regards to the issue of the French and their friendliness or otherwise………
You are right – once people get out of Paris they will find that most French people are friendly and nice. Actually even in Paris there are some friendly people. But every now and again they may come across a Parisian stereotype – haughty and condescending.
Finally, a word about the French and their relationship with food. Years ago I read an article about France and the writer had this to say:
“In Italy good food is a way of life, but in France it is an obsession.” Says it all.
Thanks again Sylviane – it was great!
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How sweet to my ears. I didn’t know that you were a lover of France and French stuff. Just for that I want to get to know you more 🙂
I love what that writer says. I think it’s true. While Italians are also huge food lovers, we can see the “obsession” in any French grocery store. We could almost say it’s too much! Who needs all that? LOL!
The first time my mother saw a deli stand in a grocery store in the US, she said to me “that’s all they have?” And very sadly I had to tell her, yes, that’s all… while reminding here that she wasn’t in France 🙂
I was talking with some French folks just two days ago and we were talking about the lack of choice when it comes to food in the US. I was saying that the US is a rich country with the food choice of the third country 🙂 And again, I’m not talking quantity here, I’m talking about variety. The US has tons of food, but little choice compared to a country like France.
I’m not making this up. Any given food stand in France is 3-4 times bigger 🙂 Just a fact.
Thanks for coming, and see you around. So glad you enjoyed your read.
Thanks for your kind words.
You are right – the food scene in the US falls a long way short when compared to France. The French food markets are extraordinary – fabulous variety and quality.
Since May 2014, I have been residing in former French colonies. First up I stayed 8 months in Vietnam, and right now I’m in Cambodia. Fortunately there are plenty of French expats here so I can easily find quality items including superb French bread and patisserie. Thank God for the French!
I have personally never been there but would love to one day. I get like that way withl my small hometown that I grew up in. Its always nice to see somewhere you used to know after you have been away for so long. Loved reading this Sylvaine!
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Thanks for coming and reading this post. I’m glad you could relate too.
Have a great day!
Or should I say… bonjour?
When I started reading your post and you wished yourself a happy birthday, all I could think was… “Bonne fête à toi!”
Oui, je parle français une petite peu… mes parents sont nés au Quebec.
But enough about that…
My wife and I are hoping to travel to Europe next year. She’s been to England and Italy, but I haven’t been overseas.
One of my clients is Australian though and he moved to Bordeaux and loves it there.
Hope we make it to France next year.
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So glad you made it to this post, so I learned something about you, namely that you can speak some French. That’s great.
I’m not someone who is home sick easily as other people may be. I adapt super well all over the place, and home is where I am at the moment. I think that most people are way too much attached to where they’re from. However, this said, it still is nice to get back in your country after so many years.
The other day I was having dinner at some new friends’ house, and we started singing songs of our childhood. Now I realized that I had to be in France for that to happen to me.
I hope you’ll come across the pond soon, then, I am sure you’ll love it.
Thanks for coming and have a great weekend.
Hi Silvia, I was just laughing with your post because I could relate so much! this past February I returned to my native land, The Canary Islands in Spain, also after 15 years of living in United States.
Everything is so familiar and yet so foreign. But I believe that having being away for so long makes us appreciate more the beauty and the culture that these small villages out in the country have to offer. I lived in L.A, so quite the contrast! but a very welcomed change of pace in my case 🙂
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I’m so glad you could relate with my post to a T. Only someone who’s lived the same thing could total understand what mean, and you sure do.
Thanks for coming.
Hello Sylviane! I never been into France yet but, I could relate about you felt when you back home. It is mixed emotion, indeed. You know you are finally home and yet at the same time, you also feel that you are stranger in your homeland. Because, lot things have been changed though there still few things remain. I have been there too and it was really feel odd.
Thank you for you input. I’m sure that you understand how I feel then. Nice to know I’m not the only one.
Thank you such an amazing and informative post. I really enjoyed reading through it. Will be definitely seeing around here. Thanks again.
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Hi Sylviane. While I was reading your article, I thought I was in France for sometime. Though I had not visited France but don’t know why I feel like It is heaven. One of my uncle recently visited Paris. I heard from him about the atmosphere there, culture of the people and mostly the french cuisine.
Your post once again made me amazed about the country.
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