Vive Les Différences!

Now that I have some time, I’m trying to catch up on my blog.  The hard part is thinking of titles for each entry!  I’ve been looking forward to this post for a long time and it will be an ongoing theme:  cultural differences, new experiences, and comparing them to what I know.  I try to stay away from comparing things in a negative way and accept things for the way they are.  “Try” being the key word here, haha.

As I was gearing up to leave the USA, I became acutely aware of my experiences in grocery shopping.  In Portland I had little to no trouble finding ingredients I needed and the selection was very deep.  Take orange juice, for example.  I could get it with lots of pulp, a little bit of pulp, no pulp, calcium + vitamin D added, or lots of pulp with calcium + vitamin D.  The cereal selection is a whole aisle and often times I would spend several minutes pondering what toothpaste to buy because there was too much to choose from.  Then there’s Costco, no comment needed there.  I love Costco, btw.

Grocery shopping in Canada was a unique experience in that I never lived there as an adult where I was seeking specific foods and comparing prices.  The grocery stores are smaller and don’t always carry the same brands or selection I was accustomed to in the US.  There’s a chain of discount grocery stores called No Frills and that’s exactly what it is.  Nothing fancy–I’m not sure if they even have heat in there, it’s always cold–but I find the distinctive, generic, yellow packaging with bold, black Helvetica font for their “No Name” brand an interesting graphic design study.  In Ontario, beer is sold at The Beer Store and liquor at the LCBO, or Liquor Control Board of Ontario, (sexy, huh?) and is accountable to the Ministry of Finance.  It’s true, I just Googled it.

Now to France.  If you love cheese like me, the selection is incredible.  There are many boulangeries (bakeries) and the croissants and baguettes are delicious.  An unfortunate thing for my waistline!  The wine selection is huge as well and very affordable.  I can get a decent bottle of wine for €4 or less.  Like the cheese, there is a huge variety from my region.  I now interrupt this blog post for a mini geography lesson.  I live in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France.  Within this region, I live in the Haute-Savoie department, the capital is my new hometown, Annecy.  There is an abundance of chocolate here, too.  The French seem to LOVE chocolate.  I’m starting to love chocolate too….ruh roh.  Seriously, in shopping for cereal, it’s hard finding something I want that doesn’t have chocolate in it!!  It’s cereal!  No Honey Nut Cheerios or ANY Cheerios, no Life, well there is Life cereal but it’s not Life as I know it.  Haha, pun intended.  Sorry folks, trying to make this post more fun to read!  Then there’s the store hours.  Grocery stores are open through lunch but many shops, banks, and even gyms are closed at lunch time.  Thinking of using your lunch break to run errands?  Forget it.  Even some big box stores close for lunch.  My bank’s hours are Mon-Fri 8:30am – 12pm / 2pm – 5:45pm.  Yup, that’s a two hour lunch break.  In fact many shops near me don’t open on Mondays until mid-afternoon and they may be closed part of Wednesdays as well.  It’s hard to say and is at the whim of the proprietor.  Almost everything is closed on Sundays, even pharmacies.  I try not to view this as an inconvenience and think of it as a day off for leisure.  In the US, it was a day to run errands at Home Depot, Target, Fred Meyer, etc.  You know, the frantic effort to get the most out of the weekend before Monday.  Now it’s a day to enjoy the outdoors, go to the farmer’s market, or see friends.  As the weather warms up, I’ve noticed more businesses in the Old Town are open on Sundays for tourists.  More food pics to come.



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