It’s no secret that I am often homesick for North American culture (and especially the food.) I could move back to the US and get a teaching job or apply to do my PhD in Canada, but I choose to stay in France. David is, of course, the major reason why, but there are are other reasons why I am happy to live here. I have been feeling rather good these past few days about living in France and what the future holds for us, even if I don’t know what I’ll be doing or where we’ll be living. So whenever I get upset about France or miss the US too much, I need to remind myself of all the things I do like about France.
Why I choose France over the US, besides mon amour:
1. Health care: I pay an extra 28 € a month in addition to what’s taken out of my paycheck for free prescriptions, free contacts, the majority (always more than 70%) of the payments made to doctors reimbursed back into my account as well as the peace of mind knowing that if I’m hospitalized for any reason, the bill won’t be outrageous and I won’t lose my job. And back in the country where I’m a citizen, worked for 8 years, and still pay taxes even though I no longer live there? I have absolutely no health care at all.
2. Long paid vacations: I work two 12 week semesters the entire year and still get paid for all 12 months. David gets 5 weeks of vacation + 4 weeks of personal days each year. If you move, or have surgery, or get married, or have a baby (men too), you’re entitled to extra days off.
3. Healthier way of life: In addition to the great health care and long vacations, the food is healthier and being active with sports or exercising is encouraged everywhere. It’s true that the French smoke and drink too much and eat a bit too much red meat, but they still live longer than Americans because they are healthier and are just as productive even with the long vacations. Health care + vacations = productive workers
4. Nation-wide smoking ban in public places: The stench of cigarette smoke makes me want to physically hurt smokers, so it’s a good thing they have to stay outside. Health takes priority over tradition.
5. Public transportation: If I don’t feel like driving to work, I can hop on a bus. If I don’t feel like driving to the airport, I can take a bus or a train. If I don’t feel like driving to the south to go on vacation, the train will get me there in about the same amount of time. It’s simply having the option to not drive that makes all the difference.
6. Shutters=sleep=health: Not only do they help regulate the temperature inside by preventing the heat or cold from pouring in, they also help protect your house against break-ins and, perhaps most importantly, allow you to sleep better at night by blocking out the light and noise. Getting more sleep is another reason why the French are healthier than Americans.
7. Different culture & history in each region: France is so small to me, and being able to go from Alpine mountain village to Provençal countryside within a 3 hour drive is very neat. Each region of France is so distinct, it feels like you are going to a different country – but everybody speaks the same language and you never have to drive more than 10 hours to get to the other side. There’s a ton of history, from 2,000 year old Roman ruins to the beaches of Normandy, that it would take years to see and experience it all.
8. Germany & Italy are right next door: And we have German and Italian language TV channels as well as a bunch of other state channels for eastern European and Asian countries. French, German and Italian have always been the 3 languages that I want to speak completely fluently so our location is perfect. The bookstores have large selections of foreign language materials too. I have more motivation and reason to study languages when the countries that speak them are so close.
9. Limits: France is not as excessive about certain things as the US. Air conditioning is set at a reasonable temperature instead of below zero so I feel comfortable and not frozen. The obsession with celebrities and “reality” TV is not as pervasive, nor or commercials or advertisements trying to get you to buy anything and everything. There aren’t as many guns as people. Religion and patriotism are more private matters and no one really cares how much money you make because there isn’t such a huge difference between the poor and the rich. The US is always about more, more, more whereas France is content to be just the way it is.
10. Bragging Rights: When I was back in the US, people whom I had just met or who didn’t know that I lived in France would automatically remark that I must be living “the dream” and that France must be wonderful. I didn’t really contradict them because I do prefer France to the US, after all; but I wouldn’t say it’s like a fairy tale to live here, as most Americans seem to think it is. I don’t know if people are jealous that I live in France or in Europe, or are jealous that I simply no longer live in the US, since apparently a lot of Americans would like to live somewhere else because of the recession. But I like being able to give my friends and family the opportunity to come to France, not only to visit me, but to discover another part of the world that they might have never known otherwise. And of course, by extension, I give them the bragging rights to say “my friend/daughter/sister/niece” lives in the French Alps.