I met up with the lovely Cynthia on Friday and chatted with her for a few hours about being an American expat in Chambéry. It’s always nice to talk to someone who is going through the exact same thing and has the same thoughts about our old and new countries. Check out her blog for great photos and videos of this region and other parts of France. She’s been here for a little over a year and has already seen much more of the Alps than I have. I am trying to wander around Chambéry more and take pictures of everything since I’ve been planning on making a photo album of my new city for about 3 months now.
Then I went to my first French wedding on Saturday. Because separation of church and state actually exists here, the only legal marriage takes place at the town hall (mairie) and then a church or outside ceremony elsewhere can follow the actual wedding. We arrived a little late and there were a ton of people so we couldn’t actually get inside the mairie to see the ceremony. The couple did choose to do a church ceremony as well (officiated by a deacon though, not a priest) and luckily the church was right next door to the mairie so we didn’t have to go far.
There were no ushers to seat people – everyone simply found their own seat. The groom and his mother and then the bride and her father walked down the aisle, and everyone stood for both of them, not just for the bride. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen or flowergirls, but there were two witnesses (témoins – there must be at least two) who didn’t walk down the aisle but sat in the front row. I couldn’t hear anything the deacon was saying because his microphone wasn’t working well and because most of the guests were chatting among themselves while a ton of kids were running up and down the aisle. I was surprised at how informal it all seemed to be compared to the many, many (too many) American weddings I’ve been to. And another interesting difference is that it’s perfectly fine for female guests to wear white. That’s still a big faux pas at American weddings, right?
The ceremony was so incredibly long. At least an hour. The bride and groom had chairs so they could sit for the entire thing. There was a girl singing, people reading poetry, grandma giving a speech, the vows, exchanging of the rings, etc. At one point the witnesses were brought up to the altar and then guests could go up there and take pictures. At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom stayed at the altar and all the guests went outside. There was no receiving line – everyone just stood around and waited for the couple to walk out so they could throw rice and blow bubbles and take a few pictures.
After the church ceremony was the vin d’honneur, which I guess is like wine & cheese hour/cocktails/toast before the actual reception/dinner. Usually everyone is invited to the vin d’honneur and then only family & close friends are invited to the dinner. We had to leave right after the church ceremony and didn’t make it to the vin d’honneur (it’s a long story) but I am glad I was finally able to see a French wedding after 3 years of being here. Most of David’s friends who got married just chose to do the simple mairie wedding and only invited their family, or they just don’t get married since having kids without being married is not stigmatized in France. In fact, I think all of his friends who have kids got married after the kids were born and some of them did it just for the lower income tax.
Saturday night we watched the France vs. Romania football match/soccer game, which unfortunately ended in a tie and means that France’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup next year are slim. The World Cup isn’t until June/July 2010 but they are already starting the qualifying matches. I still don’t really understand why the entire world minus North America is crazy about soccer, but then again I don’t understand why North America hates it so much. It’s a million times more exciting than baseball or golf. It’s not as violent as hockey or (American) football. Is it because the scores are always really low? Do Americans prefer sports with high scores so it’s easier to gamble? Someone please clue me in as to why Americans hate soccer so much!
At least my cat is not American. He watched the entire game without falling asleep and then started whining when it was over. (Though that may have been due to his empty food bowl instead of France not winning…)
David had to go back to work today, but I still have two more weeks before I start again. He was telling me at lunch that if he moved up to the next catégorie (B) at his job and became an Inspecteur, there would be a one year training period in Montpellier followed by a minimum of two years in Paris before he could be assigned to another city in France. The only way to get out of going to Paris is to request a position in the DOM-TOMs, but it’s not guaranteed. So yeah, I don’t really know how I feel about potentially living in Paris in a few years. Honestly, I’d choose the DOM-TOMs!