June 18, 2007

Answers #5

Had a few questions about employment; France hovers around 10% unemployment, which is probably more evident in the urban areas such as Paris. In checking some statistics, French wages tend to be lower than those in USA, and the French are taxed at about +40%. Keep in mind though, Socialist medicine offers coverage for everyone at what Americans would consider very low rates, and although I am not aware if the amount of time needed to get a doctor appointment is much longer than the US, reports from my sources here indicate "pretty quick turn around times". So with wages, taxes, and the price of gas in mind, people who live here seem to do pretty well. They are obviously frugal with their earnings, seem to take care of the environment with strict rules for recycling, carrying baskets or reusing heavier bags at the grocery store (where; if you forget to bring a bag - they will offer a used box, or sell you a reusable bag), and many ride bicycles instead of driving. The residents here also appear to take great care of their properties, some which may have been in their families for generations.

Also had some questions about the students in the art school: The other art students are from a variety of places, are a variety of ages, and have various levels of comfort levels with the aspect of "being in France". A student from Belgium is fluent in at least three languages that I know of; Dutch, French, and English, although he probably knows German also. It was interesting when using a term such as "culture shock", he was confused as to whether I was in shock, (medically), or I was shocked by something in the culture, (dismayed). I had to explain the basis of this American term was a common book title for those traveling to other countries - to instruct a person in the differences in cultures. Two other students are from New Zealand, and they both have offered numerous points about their history, the wildlife/plants, and the culture of their island. The similarities are striking when considering struggles of native people from their land and from USA. And discussions about ecology and global warming have been eye-opening. A few other student are first-timers to Europe, like me, and are missing some truly American experiences that are not available in this area of France.

I have been asked, again, if the French are rude: Some of the classmates may disagree, but in my opinion, NO, I have not yet met a rude French person. Some are more willing to try to communicate in either broken English to my broken French, or able use gestures to get our point across, and some do not. But this is a small town, they know "the strangers" are only here for a few months, then are gone. But most are helpful, no matter what the language. I figure those over the age of 70 have lived though the memories of a war on their land, occupation of this town, and the memories of losing family and friends in that war. I also believe knowing and appreciating at least a portion of a country's history/traditions/culture/religions makes a transition into another country a whole lot easier.

Now to spend some Euros. And yes, that is a snail in the road...