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Secret Life of an Expat: Marshmallows are Different in France

I’ve always found it hard to explain why exactly I experienced culture shock upon moving to France. It’s the little things,” I would say, when people asked what was different. So here is a little list of little things that are a little bit different, in France:

on the back it says "con Atún – com Atum – med Tonfisk - med Tunfisk – sis. Tonnikalaa – ?? Tóvo"

My cat’s breath smells like 10 different languages. Which is really cool, while at the same time it reminds me how close my borders are. French is hard enough, if I want to venture farther I’ll have yet another language to contend with.

Soft drinks are often equivalent in price to, or more expensive than wine or beer. No 99¢ two liter bottles of Coke here.

“American food” is hamburgers. There are two major middle price “American” restaurant chains here with mildly racist “Old West” decor. Buffalo Grill and Indiana’s. If someone tells you they know of a really good American restaurant, it will still be a burger joint. By the way, in the last 16 months I have been blown away by exactly one French restaurant. But maybe I don’t get out enough.

It's no Hershey bar, Jet Puffed Marshmallows and Graham Crackers, but a suitable s'more can indeed be made in France.

Marshmallows are different here. They come in strawberry and plain flavors, aren’t as fluffy as in the U.S. and are coated with sugar. But, I am happy to report, that they roast very well. They fluff up, get gooey in the middle and the sugar caramelizes so instead of turning black the marshmallow turns a pleasant creme brulé brown.

You have to pay for the free toy at McDonald’s.

In kindergarten and elementary school (until you have more than one teacher), the teacher is referred to Mistress or Master.

Kids start learning how to write cursive letters in kindergarten.

Everybody wears perfume (one of M’s strong recollections of the day we met was that I didn’t “have a scent”), and washcloths are not flat squares but sewn into little pockets you can put your hand inside.

Dog litter?

There are no pooper scooper laws that I know of, at least in my town, but apparently the French would prefer their dogs to act more like cats and go poo in a sandbox.

Condoms are sold in vending machines on the street. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that in the U.S., outside of at a rest stop on the interstate, where everything is sold in vending machines.

And finally, swans are more than just mere decorative ornaments.

featured image credit: Stuck in Customs