When I researched the city I would be staying in, I learned a lot about Rennes. We spent a day there shopping and exploring, but they actually live in Vitré, a small town outside of Rennes. It has a population of around 17,000! It was very small but really neat how we could walk to all of the restaurants, stores, and parks. The houses were all very close together and most of their friends lived just down the street. A couple times we hung out with their friends, who were always excited to see an American, and I always had fun with them. There was a castle a couple streets away from their house, which we visited often. All of the houses were so cute. They were either made of stone or wood and usually were neutral colors with bright blue, red, green, or sometimes pink windows and doors. Some buildings and roads were old and traditional which was extremely cool to see.
When I first arrived, I was still feeling super sick from the plane ride so I didn’t eat much food for a couple days, and they were really confused and thought I just had a tiny appetite. So they were relieved when I started eating a lot of food every day. For breakfast, we usually had a small meal like a bowl of cereal or a pastry. Lunch was a regular sized meal. The food would always vary but it was consistently served with salad, vegetables (usually tomatoes), bread, and cheese. Dinner was the same, larger sized with the same sides.
One of their traditions is always eating appetizers before lunch and dinner. We would sit around a coffee table and eat chips and dip or other snacks and talk for about ten minutes before eating the main course. I learned to like tomatoes because we had those almost every meal. I also learned to like Coke because they drank that a ton. Some of my favorite food I tried was the cheese, which was like no cheese I’ve ever tasted here! (They promised to send me some for Christmas.) Their bread was delicious but surprisingly really hard to eat because of the tough crust. All of their dairy products, especially the ice cream and yogurt, were exceptionally good and so were the crepes. One of the specialties of Brittany was gillets, which is kind of like a whole-wheat version of a crepe that we usually ate with eggs and ham like an omelet. I noticed that French food is more raw and much less artificial and processed than American food.
I didn’t expect the weather to be so cool. The first 2 weeks were fairly cold and the last week was hot but they don’t have air conditioning there in the houses. We toured the cities and coasts around Vitré the first week. The second week we went camping by the sea and toured around there, too. The last week we visited Paris!
There were a lot of parts of their culture that were very different from ours. Obviously, one of the biggest changes was how they greet each other with kisses instead of hugs or handshakes. However, I noticed that they never talk to or acknowledge strangers, which would be extremely weird there, unlike America where we don’t think much about waving to or greeting people as we pass. Their roads are also very different. Instead of stoplights, although they have several in the bigger cities, they have roundabouts. They also wear a lot more clothes than Americans. Even in 70 or 80-degree weather, most teens will still wear jeans, a shirt or sweater, and tennis shoes. They smoke and drink a lot. It’s ironic that they eat so healthy yet smoke and drink so much. Also, futbol is their biggest sport there. It’s about as popular in France as baseball is in America.
Unfortunately, traveling to France and back was a nightmare and it took two days to arrive and two days to return. I learned a lot from the experience though and I feel a lot more comfortable in an airport than I did before the trip. Overall, the trip was extremely eye opening. I learned a lot about myself from the friendships I made there. I feel even more open than before to trying, doing, and experiencing new things, and I have an even bigger passion to travel and witness God’s beautiful creation around the world. Although our cultures have many differences, we still had an amazing time together. Cultural differences shouldn’t keep people from connecting with others. Appreciating and respecting the differences, as well as the similarities, in our cultures allows each of us to grow into more accepting human beings. What a fantastic opportunity this has been to grow into a more understanding person!