By Siena Hocking
Maintenant je suis en France pour l'échange avec l'école. D'abord moi et mes amis, nous avions un peu peur - vous pouvez l'imaginer! Je ne savais pas quelles étaient les différences entre la France et l'Angleterre jusqu'à ce que j'ai vécu la routine d'une journée typique. Je vais vous dire comment ils sont.
In class you'd think that you were really good at French if you managed to achieve high grades in exams and tests; however, until you actually go to the country itself, you don't realise just how challenging it is to string a decent sentence together. Without the help of text books and Google translate, you start to realise how important being able to speak a language in its home country is – especially when you try really hard to compose a sentece and you just get a vacant stare as a response!
I've only been here a few days and I've already established some clear differences between the French and the English.
First off, in greeting, I've established that the French (even the teenagers) are more polite. The English teenagers, especially some of the boys, have an ambition to look like a 'hard man' as it were... English teenagers greet one another with just a simple 'hello,' a wave or a hug, depending on the relationship. This type of informality contrasts with the friendly and warm welcome of the French – a kiss on each cheek. In my opinion, this type of greeting shows more acknowledgement, as they've actually taken time to greet you. At first, I found it a little strange having a complete stranger kiss me, but that is only because of the sort of impoliteness of the English teens that people are used to. As a whole I prefer how much more polite the French are. You'd stereotypically think of teenagers being quite antisocial and having attitude; however, I don't find that here, they are all very friendly.
Today, as I approached the school doors with my exchange, I was shocked to see the number of students standing just metres away from the school and in sight of the teachers, cigarette in hand and puffing away. From what I saw, there were students there who were only the same age as me, and I thought to myself, 'How is this allowed? Surely it's not legal to smoke from the age of 14?' I just found it so bizarre as no-one was attempting to stop them! If a scenario like this had happened at PGS, they'd have been stopped immediately and most likely punished with either suspension or even expulsion, but nothing like this occured at the school in France.
I do think that France does have some truly beautiful areas, especially in and around Paris. People always picture France as a place with lots of cute little cafés, and inhabited by men in stripy t-shirts, wearing berets and carrying baguettes. However, there is much more to France than that, and it should definitely be appreciated for its attractiveness and cultural value. It has a lot more beauty to it than England, I think, not just because of the amazing buildings and cathedrals but for the inviting atmosphere that surrounds you wherever you go.