De Carlisle à la Ville Rose

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COVID 19 Virus – what is your reaction?

Written by Conor Gourley and Katie Zhang,  March 27th, 2020

Everything still seems unreal, only a week ago we were together in in Toulouse, now we are all at home in our different spots throughout the world. We certainly did not imagine this ending to the program – it was so sudden that we did not have the time to say real goodbyes to our hosts nor to friends. As our program was suspended because of the virus we decided to write an article about the different reactions to the virus by our different countries as a way to reflect on our experiences over the last weeks.

In the United States:
During my re-adaptation to life in Pennsylvania, I could see with my own eyes the American response to the conoravirus pandemic and the way many Americans were reacting. The day after I left France, Monday, March 16th, Macron issued the ‘shelter in place’ order to try to slow down the spread of the virus. Exactly one week later, on March 23rd, Tom Wolf, the governor of Pennsylvania, gave the same order for my county as well as six others. Even though it was a big step to reduce the infection rate, according to what I have seen in the reaction of other Americans, it may not be sufficient. Almost everyone with whom I spoke seemed to share the same view that the current government actions intended to help the country are not enough and it is not taken seriously. At the same time, many barely pay attention to government restrictions; especially young people who are less at risk and do not apply social distancing. Many friends have asked to meet up, if I could get to Boston to the Tufts campus to see them, or if I could go rock climbing in Kentucky. Of course I would like to go, but it is surprising to hear people who are disregarding barriers that were created as protections for our communities.

When we were in France:
I felt that no one was really nervous about the virus a few days before our departure (March 8-11th). Life went on normally- cafés and bars were full. Even as the number of sick grew by the hundreds per day, people were going out and hanging out together as they did always. Protests kept up. All the news media sent the message that there should be no panic, COVID-19 was just a bad flu. The president and his wife even went out to see a play to show that all was well. I began to get nervous when things got serious and yet those around me were not at all nervous. I stopped going out as often and avoided public transportation, while others thought I was over-reacting.

In China:

I know I was very nervous about the virus because I saw so much information about it from China. I understand how such a situation could become horrible and how the Chinese government treated the virus differently. For example, my temperature was taken 6 times before I disembarking from the plane. Then, I went through more temperature taking as well as an epidemiological report at the airport. I was not allowed to return home alone, nor could my parents come to fetch me. The airport informed my neighborhood and I was escorted home in an ambulance. I am now in self- quarantine for 14 days. Each day I receive a call from the authorities to check my temperature. Food and other goods are delivered to me.

All during the process, everyone I met wore a mask, at least. However, when I was at the Toulouse airport, I was the only mask wearer. That really bothered me and stressed me out. Therefore I did a bit of research to try to understand different reactions of different people regarding wearing masks. Here’s what I learned — people are already used to wearing masks daily in East Asian countries. In Japan, people began wearing masks to help with allergies, as in China several years ago, against increased air pollution. Yet in Europe and the US, there is a tacit understanding that only sick people wear masks. Additionally, in China everyone is required to wear a mask during the epidemic, while western governments have announced that masks are not useful for the greater public, further there are not enough masks for all. Such differences produce an opposite reactions about mask-wearing. It is very difficult to judge who is right or wrong, we need to respect both opinions.

Although it was different in the beginning, the world’s reaction is almost the same: stay home! It is certainly hard to do, but it is the most simple and the most efficient that each of us can do for society in these difficult times. Doctors and nurses are obligated to put themselves in danger from the virus, so what can we can do is to reduce our chances of becoming sick. Everyone has it hard now, but it is important to stay calm and to be grateful for the sacrifices others are making for us. I hope all will be well soon and everyone can emerge safe and sound!

Demonstrations and the culture of protest in France

Article written by Sophie Ackert

In Toulouse, I got tear gassed. That is a story that I will tell for the rest of my life. Not only is it shocking to people, but also it allows me to tell people in my life about the protest culture in France. At the end of my first month in Toulouse, I went to volleyball practice for the first time. While I was waiting at the metro stop for the other members of the team, I noticed that there were a lot of people in the plaza. I knew that Saturday was the day of the Gilets Jaunes protests, but it did not look like they were doing anything, so I figured the protest was over and everyone was leaving. Then, in less than a minute, everything changed. The crowd gathered closer together, the protestors began chants, and eventually the police tear gassed and water cannoned the plaza. I, along with other bystanders and protestors, ran away from the scene. I ran into the closest building I could get into, but I got locked in. The police were waiting outside of the building to arrest people since they knew there were Gilets Jaunes inside. After 35 minutes, I got to leave, I found some of the volleyball girls and we went to practice. I was shocked that everything continued as normal after such an intense protest. But for Toulouse in this turbulent time, that was a normal Saturday evening.

This week, on the 5th of December, was the national strike in France. The initial reason for this strike is the retirement and benefit changes that the government has proposed. However, many other movements joined in for this national day of strike. Not only was transportation shut down in many places, but also some schools and universities closed. For example, the IEP, my university, decided to shut down until Friday, the 6th. Today, on the 6th, the students decided to continue their strike and occupation of the buildings, and therefore we continue to have no class until at least next Tuesday. Then, they will vote again in a general assembly, which consists of whatever members of the community want to attend, whether to continue the strike until the end of the semester. During the occupation, students organize workshops, such as conferences with professors or external guests, debates, film screenings, demonstrations preparation sessions, etc.

*Between the writing and publication of this article, the occupation has been renewed until the 13th of December.

Difference in Protest Culture between France and the US.

The idea of revolting or protesting is an important aspect of the history and of the present in France. It is very different than protest culture in the US. Starting from the Revolution up until the December 5th strike of this year, the French people are rooted in protesting. There have been times of violent protesting, like with the capture of the Bastille in the 18th century, and like today with the Black Bloc protestors. But there are also times of more calm protests, like we saw yesterday during the strike in Toulouse (ed: December 5th). Regardless of the type of protest, they have worked in France to change things in the government that the public is unhappy with. The Revolution in the most prominent example of how revolting and protesting has worked for France. There are others as well, including the uprising of students against the government of De Gaulle in 1968, and in 1995, with the strikes against the “plan Juppé”.

In the United States, protests are much more common than strikes. But even when there are protests, they are not national such as in France. There are protests for individual causes, and they usually last no more than a day. A good example is the Women’s March. This is a group that holds protests in many big cities around the US every year. The goal is “to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change” (Women’s March), but not necessarily to make specific changes in law or government. This is more commonly the purpose of protests in the US because the constitution and the law is much harder to change than in France. Our constitution is almost impossible to amend, while in France, they amend the constitution about every two and a half years. This is a simplified explanation for why protest culture is so different in France, and why the protests make change in France.

The differences between border security in the United States and France

Article written by Julia Walsh

There is a frivolous dream among American university students who study in Europe to decorate their passports to later show off their numerous stops and recount the adventures of studying abroad. In order to arrive in Toulouse, I first stopped in Brussels, Belgium to take a connecting flight. In Brussels, I received the ever-anticipated first stamp of my travels. However, once I landed in Toulouse, there was no stamp to be given. The same was true when I flew to Italy and Spain – new countries, but no stamps. In fact, it seemed to me that the agents at the airport hardly gave my passport a second look. This was shocking coming from the United States where entering and exiting the country is guaranteed to be accompanied by a thorough passport inspection. This experience on my first day of studying abroad already gave me an insight into the differences in border security between France and the United States.

The Schengen Agreement and Area

Another moment when I saw very clearly the differences between borders policies in my home country and in France was while driving over the border between France and Spain with my hosts. We were spending the weekend in the Pyrenees, a mountain range which stretches between Southern France and Northern Spain. They informed me that we were very close to the Spanish border and that we could cross over if I would like. My initial reaction was that of panic, since I didn’t have my passport with me. However, it turns out that there were hardly any differences crossing the border, apart from the signs which were now in Spanish. Crossing an international border, which seemed like a big deal to me, was no different than traveling between New York and Pennsylvania, or any other state.

My hosts informed me that this was a result of the Schengen Agreement. After doing a bit of research, I learned that the Schengen Agreement of 1995 followed the Treaty of Maastricht, of 1992. The initial treaty was created among the members of the European Union to encourage integration and community among the member states. Since 1995, the established Schengen Area has expended and now includes 26 countries that do not require individual passports and freedom of travel for people within their borders. Consequently, while traveling by car or plane to all of the countries that border France, there is freedom of travel and no customs agent.

Border security in the United States vs France

The physical barriers of security that are seen at the borders of France and the borders of the United States are quite different. As I saw when passing between France and Spain, there are no customs agents or other control checkpoints when moving between countries in this region. I saw the remnants of what where previously border control stations, however these buildings remain abandoned ever since the 1995 agreement. Although I have no experience driving through the United States’ southern border, I have driven through the Northern border to Canada a number of times. This journey, although not too difficult for American citizens, can take up to a couple of hours as a result of waiting in line for each vehicle to be stopped and questioned upon entering the new country. I remember traveling over the border with my parents when I was younger, and being told that the border is very serious and that it is imperative to not speak unless spoken to. I carry with me the same sentiments about borders for each new country. However, arriving in France and traveling within the European Union, I have found that there are not as severe of sentiments within the Schengen Area. It is important to specify the difference between the European Union and the Schengen Area, due to the differences in security when traveling outside of the Schengen Area. I traveled to Dublin, Ireland one weekend in November and was thrown back into the reality that I normally face with customs at the airport. The agents both arriving in Ireland and returning to France carefully examined my passport and asked detailed questions about my travels. It was at this time that I did receive, finally, another stamp on my passport. However, this was at the cost of a more intense and nerve-racking border control experience. It is clear that there is not one uniform form of security in the European Union despite the efforts of the Schengen Agreement. That information aside, the security within the area, and in France as a result, differs greatly from security protocols in the United States.

Impacts of “hot topics” today in border security:

Today in the United States, as well as France and Europe more broadly, there are many political debates surrounding the topics of borders. In Europe, this conversation centers mostly on the influx of asylum seekers and migrants coming into the region during and after 2015. The “migrant crisis” opened up many conversations about how the European Union and individual states were going to handle adequately housing asylum seekers. For France and other countries, these conversations include considering quotas and safe numbers of people to allow in their country while respecting their values, human rights, and the rights of citizens. In the United States, border security conversations certainly surround problems at the Mexican/United States border. With a crackdown in border security coming from the Trump administration, the area is high in tensions and a huge topic for debate going into the 2020 presidential elections. This subject alone is extremely polarizing for Americans on either side of the debate, one side hoping to stop the flow of illegal immigration and the other seeking to bring asylum to those at the border and moreover help families who are being detained at the border by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The most pressing discussions around border security in the United States and France alike both return to the idea of citizenship and migration. The rights of citizens and immigrants are different in both countries and reflect broader cultural differences and similarities in the constant struggle to define a citizen.

McDonald’s in France and in the US

Article written by Esra Park

Before boarding my flight to France, my last stop in the U.S. was dedicated to my beloved McDonald’s oreo McFlurry. Since I was little, my family would often stop by a fast food restaurant before dropping someone off at LAX. Whether that be McDonald’s, In-N-Out, or Chipotle, it was a nice way to get a quick snack by drive-thru, and eat our treats in the car. I boarded the plane and set out for my year-long study abroad in Toulouse. On the first day of our program, I was making my way to the Dickinson Center when I passed by one of the first McDonald’s I had seen in France thus far. To my surprise, almost everyone there was dining in! I was completely caught off guard to see that people were actually sitting down at McDonald’s, eating their fast food, talking with friends, and spending their time there as if it were any other lunch-break restaurant.

Culture of McDo in America vs. France

I was taken by surprise because, McDonald’s in America is very much a fast-food experience. Firstly, American McDonald’s are always built with a drive-thru option: you will often find that the drive-thru has more cars waiting in line than the cars parked in the parking lot, which often causes the drive-thru experience to actually take longer than just going inside and ordering. Because people choose drive-thru over dine-in, it is much more common to see people munching on their fries in the car while they drive their meals back home. Or even, people will eat their burger and sip their coke while they drive to their meeting, trying to squeeze in a quick lunch in the middle of their busy day. Additionally, McDonald’s is virtually everywhere in America. Odds are, you can easily find one within a 15-20 minute drive from wherever you are, and if you’re in a big town or major city, there will surely be one just 5 minutes away from you. According to, there were around 13,900 McDonald’s in America in 2018. Lastly, McDonald’s in America is almost always a 24-hours establishment. They are open every single day, year-round, and even during major holidays. On the other hand, in France, it appears that the McDonald’s experience is treated much more as a dine-in opportunity, just like any other restaurant. Obviously McDonald’s is not the same as local restaurants that customize their menu-of-the-day to fit their fresh ingredients-of-the-day, but the principle of lunch and dinner goers taking their time to eat their meals and chatting with friends is basically the same. I’ve noticed that during lunch and dinner times, these McDonald’s are never empty; there is always a line of people waiting to order, and then struggling to find a place to sit. Even during non-peak meal times, I still always see people eating at the tables outside. These McDonald’s are also often located in popular areas where people walk and shop, so it is pretty uncommon to see one with a drive-thru option. However, oddly enough, most of these McDonald’s actually have a small side window where people can order to-go in a drive-thru like feature, but basically replacing the cars with humans. In addition, McDonald’s is not quite everywhere in France as it is in America. The fast-food chain surely exists and is present in large cities, but they are not necessarily in every neighborhood like they usually are in the States. According to, there are only around 1,400 locations in all of France in 2018, which is approximately only 10 percent the amount in the U.S. Moreover, French McDonald’s is not the 24-hour show that is in America: they actually usually close around 1am and open around 8am.

Connotations of McDo in America vs. France

Some of these major differences between American and French attitudes towards McDonald’s come from the different connotations that the franchise has in each country. In America, McDonald’s is very much perceived as the bottom level of dining that one can go for. It is inexpensive, cheap quality, and plainly fast-food. People generally do not spend time dining-in because they do not see it really as an event, but more so something to pick up through drive-thru when they are feeling lazy and want some good old fashioned junk food. What is interesting to note, however, is the people who do usually choose to dine-in: Usually the people choosing to dine-in are lower-class families who take advantage of the affordable prices at McDonald’s to use it as an opportunity to dine together. I have also noticed that, whenever I do walk-in instead of drive-thru, there are many construction workers who will use the dine-in option to get a quick and cheap lunch, and take a break together. By contrast, almost anyone and everyone dines-in in France. People commonly choose to dine-in at McDonald’s in France, and for those who cannot seem to find an open table or empty seat at the restaurant, they will order to-go and take their McDonald’s to a nearby park where they will then sit and enjoy their meals together. Certainly McDonald’s does not lose its title as a fast-food chain, but in France, they do not seem to have quite the negative, lower connotation associated with McDonald’s in America. People are not as self-conscious to be seen eating at a McDonald’s in France, whereas some might feel awkward or embarrassed to be seen dining-in at a McDonald’s in America.

Possible explanations for the connotations

While discussing my observations with my hosts at dinner one night, my hosts explained to me that one of the reasons why McDonald’s in France seems to be a bigger deal than McDonald’s in America is the fact that it is one of the few reliable places to get a burger. She mentioned that unlike the U.S., there are not many specialized burger restaurants, so whenever people feel like eating a burger and fries, they will reach for McDonald’s. I found that to be interesting because after reflecting some and looking around, there really are not many burger restaurants or other burger franchises other than McDonald’s, that I’ve seen. In the States, aside from independent burger restaurants, there are actually many burger franchises that are of better quality than a fast-food burger, but still exist in multiple locations; just to name a few: Umami Burger, Johnny Rockets, Five Guys, etc. Another reason why there might be this difference in perception towards McDonald’s could be that the quality and presentation of the fast-food in France is just better than that of in the U.S. It is known that American McDonald’s is not the prettiest of foods, nor of great quality. It is actually not uncommon that McDonald’s workers will forget parts of your order or even ingredients in your food that they have become internet memes. One of the most common memes about American McDonald’s revolves around the theory and fact that their ice cream machine is always broken. Therefore, really the only dessert option rests at a soggy apple McPie. Yet in France, McDonald’s features special items specific to the country such as burgers and sandwiches made with a fresh, warm baguette. You can even finish off your meal with dessert options ranging from five different flavors of macarons to mini tiramisu to the southwestern French specialty, canelé. With menu options like these, I would surely be open to French McDonald’s dining experience.

Firearms: liberty or security?

Editors: Brendan, Emma, Nicole and Sara

Living, studying, and conducting service projects allows us, as Americans in France, to learn more about the differences between these two cultures and ways of life. While many of these differences have become somewhat normal and generally accepted for us as current residents of Toulouse, we are still taken aback when we encounter French students who are extremely curious about gun culture in the U.S. As part of a service project for our program Emma helps teach English classes at a French school. While aiding high school seniors in their preparation for the BAC exam at the end of the year, they focused on gun culture in America and how it affects our country’s politics. In several discussions with the French students, they asked her several questions regarding the topic, but the one question that stuck with Emma was: do you own a gun? Their question surprised her because they were so serious about it and they assumed that she would own one, as a 21 year old college student. This question arose from more than just a few students which led us to consider more closely the role of guns in American society vs. French society.

To understand the vast cultural differences on the societal place of guns in each country, one must understand the laws regulating firearms, starting with the United States. As most Americans would know, the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution and as a further level of protection, most state constitutions guarantee this right. Given the fact that gun ownership is so ingrained into the foundation of the United States, it is no surprise that this issue is divisive. In terms of possession and ownership of a firearm, the laws vary state by state. Generally accepted laws include the prohibition of firearm sales to convicted felons, domestic abusers, fugitives, addicts of an illegal substance, those who are deemed mentally unstable, veterans who have been dishonorably discharged, and those who have renounced U.S. citizenship. Regarding the regulation of both open and concealed carry of a firearm, laws have changed dramatically since the early 2000’s. In most states, a license is required to carry a handgun and is permitted to qualified applicants, however eleven states still allow concealed carry of a firearm without a permit. This is called “Constitutional carry”. Twenty-six states allow open-carry of handguns without a permit and four states plus Washington D.C. have banned open-carry of handguns.

As one would expect, the laws are much different in the European Union. In France specifically, a hunting license or sport-shooting license is required to purchase any firearm. These licenses are broken down into 4 categories which determine specific regulations and must be renewed repeatedly. These regulations can get complicated, but the main thing to understand is that there is no right to bear arms. The punishment for illegally having a gun is a maximum of 7 years in prison and a fine. In 2012, the French government estimated that there were at least 7.5 million guns legally in circulation. Logically, this number is a far cry from the enormous estimated 393 million legally owned arms in the United States.

The differences in gun culture between France and the United States is reflected not just in legislation and gun owner statistics, but by extension in the way their respective citizens think. Having grown up in America where guns are so easily accessible and owned by many, when an argument between two people starts to get too heated, when someone looks alone and disturbed in a public place, or when she’s alone with someone following her, Sara’s first thought is to be cautious and aware of her surroundings because those people might have guns. One day she was explaining this feeling to the mother of her French host family and she was shocked that Sara instinctively thought in this manner. They discussed how Sara’s response is totally different than the reaction of a French person. For them, the idea of an average citizen having a gun doesn’t even cross their mind as a possibility, while for an American it’s a likely and dangerous possibility that influences both our sense of security and our thought process.

However, in an interesting turn of events, Nicole was also mildly shocked to be greeted by French military police carrying what appeared to be large, semi-automatic arms stationed casually in the Toulouse Blagnac airport. For her, whenever she sees military personnel or police carrying serious firearms, she automatically assumes something is horribly wrong. Her first instinct is to get herself as far as possible from them for fear of whatever they are dealing with. In the US, normal police carry only a handgun, and in her experience, there are no military police stationed in airports unless there has been a bomb threat. However, as she spends more time in France, the phenomenon of heavily armed military police is becoming more normal and less alarming. The interesting and somewhat ironic twist to this is that while she is American and Americans in general carry more firearms, she seems to be less used to seeing men carrying large guns than her French counterparts. So while the French are equal parts fascinated and alarmed by American civilian gun laws, one could also say that she too was very surprised by guns in France.

The differences in gun rights between France and the United States provoke both cultural differences and varying points of view. Civilian carry of firearms is legal in the US and widespread, causing the French to believe in the stereotype that every American carries a gun and that every American is used to seeing guns. However, for Nicole personally, the reality is quite the opposite. Not only does she not own a gun, she is not used to seeing them, though the fear of someone carrying a firearm is always present in tense situations. In fact, she was uncomfortable to be around military police carrying semi-automatic firearms whereas the other French citizens appeared to be completely at ease. However for a French citizen, the idea of owning their own gun is outlandish and strange. We find this large cultural difference interesting, as we believe it is an accurate reflection of each country’s founding principles. In France, the people believe strongly in the government and its ability to care for them, an attitude typical of a socialist country. However in the United States, a country founded on principles of individual liberty and a mistrust of the English government, people are more likely to distrust the government and place more faith in themselves. Being able to carry your own firearm to protect yourself in the absence of government protection is one of the most direct manifestations of the powerful belief in individual liberty: taking matters into your own hands in light of a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to take care of its citizens. While the US right to carry firearms is meant to ensure individual liberty and security, for some of us it provokes a sense of insecurity around strangers. However in France, even though people do not have the liberty to carry firearms, they are free from the same sort of fear and suspicion of people in public. Who is the most free: Americans who have the legal right to carry a gun, or the French who do not fear for their life in heated situations?

Dogs in France

Editors: Drew, Elizabeth and Maggie

One day, while out for a run, Elizabeth passed a plump beagle, trotting around all on his own. He was wearing a collar, so she knew he had a home. At first, she thought that maybe his owner was just a bit behind him since the French don’t always keep their dogs on leashes, but there was no one within sight. Fearing that the little guy was lost, Elizabeth tried to approach him to see if his tag might have a phone number to call. But upon seeing her approach, he immediately ran away down an adjacent street…

Dogs in urban versus rural areas

The nature of dog ownership in France differs from the city to the countryside. Between urban and rural settings, a dog’s breed, its function in the home, and its interactions with its owner can be completely different. In either region, French dogs seem to be extremely well-trained, but trained for different purposes. From one area of France to another, a dog will fit into daily life in dramatically different ways. In rural areas, like the town we visited in the Pyrenees, dogs often have their own responsibilities, functioning almost independently from their owners for long periods of time. They are often very large breeds with keen senses and thick fur to keep them warm. They are bred and trained to play an important role in herding and protecting other animals for their owners. The dogs can be left alone for weeks with their herd, expected to watch over the other animals while their owner is away. They are therefore often unfriendly towards outsiders, as their purpose is to defend the flock from potential threats, and even an accidental passer-by could be perceived as such.

City dogs, by contrast, are kept as company for their owners and stay in homes. From what we’ve seen, dogs in the city are typically smaller than mountain dogs. They are kept to be cute companions as opposed to having responsibility of their own, making them entirely dependent on their owners instead. The thickness of their coat is less important than it is for mountain dogs, as they are not outside for prolonged periods of time and their owners may put them in sweaters to go out anyways. On her way to the Dickinson Center, Maggie has often seen a couple carrying their Yorkie dressed up in a little raincoat. That’s an unlikely sight out in a rural area. City dogs may go for walks or runs with their owners and learn tricks, but their only real job is to love their owner.

Dogs in Toulouse

Toulouse is a city where you can meet dogs almost everywhere. Dogs of all sizes are spotted in cafés, grocery stores, restaurants, public transportation, and even when we don’t see them, we are constantly reminded of their presence through the business they leave behind. When walking through beautiful Toulouse it is dangerous to get lost looking up at the architecture or the bright blue sky for too long for risk of stepping in droppings from France’s four legged friends. For foreigners visiting France, the amount of dog poop covering the cities sidewalks is disgusting and incomprehensible. Watching dog owners in France walk through a packed little street stopping to let their dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk, then continuing on their walk is a normal sight here in France. Contrary to what one might think, there is actually a law that exists in France enforcing owners to pick up after their dogs with the threat of a 400 Euro fine if ignored. However, it does not seem like many cities in France are actively enforcing this law. By French dog owners, this law is largely ignored due to the sentiment that because the French pay taxes, it is the city’s responsibility to clean the streets, including their dogs’ waste. Because this issue is culturally rooted in France, enforcing a fine will not fix this canine problem.

Due to the more casual attitude towards dogs in France, dogs are often seen walking through the city streets and in parks without leashes. There is a French law that requires dogs to be under their owners’ close surveillance, less than 100m away, but no law that states dogs must be on a leash. This habit of trusting dogs to walk and play off-leash adds to the inclusiveness and high status of dogs in French society. Given a day to walk around any French city it is easy to recognize the special place dogs have in society in France. On an average day it would not be unusual for one to find dogs accompanying their owners carrying out their particularly “human” activities such as sitting in a café, going shopping, getting a haircut, and even taking public transportation. A large majority of shops, restaurants and cafés have no problem with bringing dogs into their establishments and will even go as far as to bring out water bowls for France’s four-legged friends. It is also not unusual for metro doors to open and to be greeted by dogs lounging on the ground or in the laps of their owners nonchalantly. In this dog-friendly society, dog owners are both permitted and encouraged to include their dogs while going about their daily lives in the city.

Comparison with dogs in the US

While there are certainly a great number of differences between the function of dogs within the French culture, the differences between how French and American cultures perceive their canine companions can be even more glaring. For example, between the two cultures, there is a large difference between the dog’s placement within the family. In the United States, the dog is a member of the family. Americans have the tendency to “baby talk” their dogs, kiss their dogs, and invite their dogs onto their furniture. Dogs, affectionately termed “fur babies,” are treated as extra children. Similarly, the French value their animals and obviously love them very much. However, there is a difference in the dog remains a dog in the eyes of the family. For instance, Elizabeth has met French families who, while they love their dogs, will only allow them in the communal part of their home, not in the bedrooms. Furthermore, the French don’t seem to have little “discussions” with their dogs, other than simple commands. The relationship between the French and their dogs resembles the master-animal relationship more than the parent-child one.

On top of this difference in family interactions, French and American dogs react much differently to outsiders as well. American dogs, since they are a large part of the family unit, are often very well socialized. When friends come to visit an American home, they often spend a good amount of time petting the dog and paying attention to him. When dogs are taken out for a walk, owners are usually bombarded with requests to pet the dog, usually from children or college students. Consequently, American dogs tend to be very outgoing and open towards strangers. Rather than shying away from a stranger’s approach, an American dog tends to welcome it, tail wagging. French dogs, however, are not given such attention. When friends come over, the dog is not the main subject of conversation and when a dog is out in public, it is often ignored by passers-by. Therefore, when a French dog is approached by a stranger, he is often much warier and withholding than an American dog, who may run to greet a stranger before a stranger runs to greet it.

There’s more on the topic of mutts. While Americans try to specify exactly what mix of breeds their dog might be, there is less of an emphasis on getting a purebred dog. On the contrary, adopting an abandoned mutt is seen as the most preferable thing to do, since these dogs are in need and, as a positive, are less likely to be inbred. In contrast, the French seem to mostly have dogs that are a specific, easily identifiable breed. This then reflects on how one looks at procuring a dog. In France, a dog is bought. One goes to a breeder or a store that has the type of dog one wants to buy it. On the other hand, Americans are more inclined to adopt. Even though they pay fees, Americans don’t truly see themselves as buying their dog because the emphasis is on rescue and providing a “forever home.”

Tell me how you eat and I’ll tell you where you come from

Editors: Alexander, Demetria, Elizabeth and Sara

Elizabeth’s first meal in France

My first introduction to French food habits was my first night in Toulouse. I didn’t get to my hosts’ house until about 9:30 at night so I wasn’t expecting anything more than a snack when I arrived, but little did I know my hosts had prepared a multi-course, hour and a half long meal for me. Before coming to France I knew that they had different eating habits than us Americans from taking a French food culture class at Dickinson. I was not prepared, however, for the structure and the style of meal I was about to receive. We sat down at the table in the little courtyard that separates the main house and what my hosts fondly refer to as the “chartreuse”, which is the house where my room is. It was a beautiful evening so although I was fatigued from my long day and a half of traveling, sitting outdoors in this beautiful courtyard soothed me in a way. I introduced myself to my host and we started chatting while her husband brought out the first course. The three of us shared sliced tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic, the flavor of which I still remember to this day. The tomatoes were so fresh, and when I asked about them my host told me she had picked them up from the market this morning. I remembered learning in class that the French often shop for their food the day they plan to prepare it to ensure its freshness and quality. Next my host brought out a cheese and ham tart that she had just pulled from the oven. I noticed how my hosts ate so that I could mimic their actions in order to show them that I could participate in this ritualistic way of eating as well. They ate very slowly, savoring each bite as if each was more incredible than the last. After the tart I assumed we would be finished and I could finally go to bed, but they had a different plan. My host disappeared into the house again and returned with a large plate of different cheeses and a basket of fresh bread. She explained to me what the different cheeses were and invited me to try as many as I liked. After we finished our cheese I discovered it was time for dessert, something I am not accustomed to eating after dinner because my parents hate sweets. Luckily for me their version of dessert is plain yogurt with a bit of sugar that you can add on top. I found this to be the perfect way to end the meal, it was sweet enough to cure the after-dinner sugar craving and light enough that I didn’t feel completely stuffed after having just consumed four courses. And finally, once the yogurts were finished and the plates and dishes were cleared, my hosts proposed a “tisane”, a medley of herbal tea leaves my host grows in her garden and dries for us to enjoy after dinner. This specific blend is meant to help digestion which was much needed after the amount of food we ate. This first meal came as quite a surprise to me but I quickly grew accustomed to the late, multi-course dinners and have truly grown to love and appreciate them.

A comparison of French and American food practices

The French have many eating habits and traditions that differ from those of Americans. In France, meals are most often shared with family. This applies even when family members’ schedules become busy. In the United States, family members commonly eat at times that are convenient for them as individuals instead of waiting for the whole family to be available at one specific time. Keeping the French tradition of eating as a family in mind, it makes sense that Elizabeth’s hosts wanted to welcome her into their home by inviting her to eat with the whole family even at a late hour, another tradition that is also very common in France. The time at which the French eat their meals, notably dinner, differs greatly from what Americans are used to. Whereas American families often eat dinner around 6pm, French families eat much later, frequently around 8pm or even 9pm. However, even though the meals may start later in France, that does not prevent them from lasting for hours at a time. A person’s participation in a meal in the United States ends after they personally have finished eating, so the meals often do not take very long. In France, dinners may go on for hours as French people discuss all types of topics, ranging from the food prepared to politics. The fact that French meals usually consist of multiple specific courses also adds to the length of the meal. In France, there is often an “aperitif” even before the dinner itself starts, which usually includes a drink and small portions of food, such as nuts, savory pastries, and spreads. During the dinner, there is often an entrée course, similar to an appetizer, and then the main course. Dessert comes after the main course, along with a spread of cheeses and bread. On the other hand, in the United States, all of the food is usually just served at once. If it happens to be a more special occasion though, there may be an appetizer course before the meal, which often includes cheese. The extensive amount of courses in a meal in France and the fact that meals often last for hours also explains the fact that most French people do not snack throughout the day.

The value of food

In France, meals are seen as an important time of the day during which families gather to eat together and the French place a lot of value and importance in the action of sharing a meal. On the other hand, in the US there is generally a very different attitude towards food. In the US people are generally more comfortable eating alone or eating while doing something else in order to save time. For example, students will often bring work to breakfast or lunch or do work in their room as they are eating dinner in order to use time efficiently. This casual attitude towards food is very different from the attitude in France, where often more time is taken to prepare meals and more time is spent at the table. Even during the week, time is generally set aside so that a meal can be prepared. This difference could be explained by the more personal and emotional relationship that people have with food in France, as it is such an important and central part of the culture. This is also seen in the idea of “terroir”. “Terroir” refers to the relationship between where the food is grown and how it tastes. In fact, this idea of “terroir” is so important that there are specific measures taken to give special protection and recognition to these areas and the products produced there. Also, during a meal in France people will often discuss the meal and the food that they are eating, as well as spend more time eating in order to appreciate the meal and the experience of sharing a meal with company. In France a meal is seen as more of a social experience, rather than in the US where is it often seen as a more flexible part of the day, where shortcuts can be taken as necessary.

The relationship to food and waste in France

It is clear from the habits of the French that food is perceived as more than just an act of consumption. It is a treat, it is pleasure, it is conversation, it is a treasured and important element of one’s life. Meals are not an afterthought, they are planned for and valued. And while the extent of these observations might come as a surprise to a French reader, that is only because we are overstating the banal. The attachment to food is at the essence of French culture in a way that is most noticeable to those who do not hold that kind of relationship to food. But what are the implications of all of this? A pleasure mentality to food, eating, preparation, and all the like influences the way we treat food beyond what goes in our body. Throwing away what we have prepared or only using two thirds of the ingredients towards the meal becomes a far bigger deal if that meal was prepared from start to finish with our own hands in our own kitchen or the taste of that tomato actually means something to our day. Finishing our plates and using our ingredients in their entirety or before they go bad thus becomes the expected. The French care about their food and wasting it does not happen lightheartedly. Meanwhile, in the United States, the entire idea of a relationship to food can seem almost amusing. Consumption is at the core of the act of eating, and thus efficiency comes into play. The ingredients must be easy to get, the preparation has to be straightforward, and eating should happen so one can get back to the important things in life. In the US, frozen or ready-made food and ingredients fill in supermarket shelves and spending too much time preparing a meal would be marking a special occasion. With this in mind, not finishing one’s plate becomes far easier. If one cares about the process and product of food prep little beyond the fulfillment of a basic need, one is bound to care little about how that food is treated at any point of the process. Thus, food waste becomes easy. Culturally, there is little stigma around food waste in the United States and that is because of the lack of a meaningful relationship to food and eating. We now see how attachment to the act of eating in France not only contributes positively to the “joie de vivre” but also strengthens French people’s bond to what they eat in a way that reduces food waste.

How is the concept of personal space different between France and the United States?

Editors: Bevin, Lara, Melody and Paul

@ Fennel Hudson

One of the most confusing aspects of French culture, in our opinion, is the perception of personal space. Melody’s first memorable experience with personal space in France was the first time that she met the grandmother of her home stay hosts. On her way through Jardin des Plantes, Melody had, by coincidence, ran into her hosts, who were hosting their grandmother for the weekend. Melody was hurriedly introduced to her and, in honoring French custom, the grandmother went in for the “bise”, one kiss for each cheek. Forgetting the seemingly space-invading custom, Melody awkwardly responded late and, when the grandmother went to her left, Melody went to her right resulting in almost kissing the grandmother on the mouth. This apparently was not enough embarrassment, since the grandmother then turned to the right and Melody consequently turned to her left, which resulted in another almost-mouth kiss. Quelle horreur! Experiences such as this one are not an uncommon phenomenon for foreigners in France, as the concept of personal space varies widely between cultures. What makes up personal space in France? How is it interpreted differently in French contexts and practiced in daily life? While these questions are seemingly complex, exploring them with our intimate observations of French culture allows for a more structured analysis of the definition of personal space with the context of France.

You’re never fully dressed without a smile… unless in France!

When walking down the street in America it is normal to smile at the person who passes by you. However, in France this is rare. If you practice your American smile in France it will either not be reciprocated or met with confusion. You may think that this is because the French are rude. Yet, this behavior is essentially due to a cultural difference in the perception of personal space between France and the United States, which translates in the way French people build their relationships. Americans are usually very open from the beginning and it is normal for them to share personal information even if they are meeting someone for the first time. This practice takes a longer time with the French. Indeed, if they decide to share personal information with you at all, it may not occur until after multiple meetings. While this may be shocking to people from the United States it is completely normal in France. The French value their relationships and carefully choose the information they share with others.

@ Blonde paresseuse

Paradoxically enough, as we’ve seen in the introduction, it is not uncommon in France to “faire la bise” to greet people you just met, whereas it is perceived as very personal contact in the United States because of the physical proximity that this gesture implies. This is another proof that the two cultures do not share the same perception of personal space and privacy.

There’s no place like home…

The way in which the French treat their private spaces demonstrates another cultural difference from typical Americans. Walking around Toulouse, you can often see groups of young people dining together, sitting by the river and generally enjoying the city. While this isn’t shockingly abnormal, the frequency at which young Americans habitually choose to have an outdoor get together is far less frequent. Living in Toulouse has felt reminiscent of the U.S. in the late 20th century in terms of how and where people tend to congregate. Americans crave innovation, and the creation and popularization of the Internet and cell phones has diminished the need for young Americans to leave their personal spaces to socialize. Your friends, and virtually anyone who has a social media account, can be reached, or monitored, with a few clicks, scrolls, and taps. The French aren’t technology adverse, of course. They too enjoy the accessibility of the Internet and social media by the same means. But they continue the tradition of staying out to see those inside and outside of their social circles. Almost any day of the week, one can see young people hanging out by La Garonne, the river that runs through the city of Toulouse. A few times friends we’ve wanted to see were already there, hanging out with friends of their own.


This cultural difference has affected how both cultures use their private spaces, most specifically their homes. The most typical way young Americans hang out is by having an activity at home. We have coined the term “pregame”, in reference to drinking with friends in one’s home before actually going out, or “Netflix and Chill” to mean watching a movie with a love interest at home instead of forking over the money to go to the movies. The comfort of being in our own homes, and bringing others into it, has begun to replace the typical shopping-mall hang out on a Friday evening one would do to see if their crush would stop by with his or her friends. The French enjoy sleepovers and lazy hangouts too, but tend to be more selective with who they let into their homes and how frequently.

In a physical way of demonstrating this preference to privacy, French homes, apartment buildings, schools and offices have shutters over each window and even over some doors. It isn’t unusual to see these closed during the night, hot days, or when people are not at home. Shutters have become ingrained into the French culture, as traditional and for practical use. There are many kinds of shutters; however, the most popular are wooden or electric shutters. Shutters can help retain heat during the winter, prevent the sunlight from heating the house in summer and add an extra layer of security to any building. One can observe simply by walking down a typical Toulouse street that most houses also have a gate, a wall, or tell hedges surrounding the house to block the view from the street. This adds another layer of security as well as personal privacy, which the French cherish. The French regard the home as an intimate, personal space which only close friends or family usually have the invitation to see inside. They layout of a typical home can be used to describe the population in general; reserved and quiet on the outside but charming on the inside.

How can we interpret the different approaches to the notion of personal space in France and the United States?

@ Liz Provasi

For an American, having space and privacy is integral to the American identity as a freedom that is underlined in the Constitution. Big houses and personal space for cars or objects are looked upon as favorable and having space for one’s body is seen as the norm. In contrast, the French standard of personal space reveals a seemingly subtle paradox: while houses and personal life are seen as extremely private aspects, the space invading “bise” is seen as not just a formality but an accepted necessity. In the French context, personal space is translated into the physical space, the house and home, while that of bodies or literal “personal space” is seen as not as important. The American mindset focuses much more on the spatial arrangement of the personal as important: having space for the body is the most important whereas the space of house and home is seen as a less private, bordering on a public display. For Americans in France, it can be very confusing to read the signs of personal space, especially with the “bise”. One of the greatest misunderstandings between French and Americans stems from this difference in interpretation, as the need for personal space pervades our lives in ways that sometimes we don’t stop to think about. With increasing globalization and mobilization of world citizens, it is imperative to keep an open mind within different cultures as well as be aware of how you take up space, whether personal or physical. Space as a cultural aspect can be intimidating but also enlightening.

The Franglais Phenomenon

Editors : Isabel, Julianna and Sophia 

On the day Isabel arrived in Toulouse, her host family’s daughter eagerly asked if Isabel had ever heard the word “lull”. After some confusion, Isabel realized that this was not a French word, but rather the English text-shortcut ‘LOL’ pronounced in a French accent. This experience proved to be the first of many encounters with anglicisms in the langue française courante. A homeowner uses “scotch” to tape a “poster” on the wall, a parent “fait du shopping” every “week-end”, and a lycéen finds everything “cool” and even “likes” certain “Facebook” posts. So far one of the most surprising realizations from Toulouse is that French conversations contain quite a bit of English!

Globalization and the rise of linguistic borrowing

The use of anglicisms is so prevalent in French that it made us wonder, why are there so many English words? The use of foreign words is not particularly shocking on its own; after all, lexicons are flexible and the rise of intercultural contact in this era of globalization has left almost no language untouched. We have noticed plenty of examples of other non-English foreign words in French too, such as tsunami (Japanese), hijab (Arabic) and yoga (Hindi). Yet many of these terms differ from the English words in that they’re rather limited – they tend to refer to specific events or practices from the culture of origin. The words borrowed from the English language describe more universal phenomena (le business, le babysitting) and are more frequently turned directly into French verbs  (customiser, uploader), both of which indicate that English has more influence on French than other foreign languages. Given that the majority of these anglicisms come from sports, fashion, entertainment and online/social media vocabulary, it appears that the dominant English-speaking internet and entertainment culture is responsible for these additions to the French language.

Dire, ne pas dire

The prevalence of anglicisms in daily language has caught the attention of the French, too. In France, language is more than a means of communication; it is a matter of national heritage and culture. L’Académie française, a council of 40 writers and artists devoted to the protection of the French language and its integrity, takes a hardline stance against the use of anglicisms. This can be seen in the Académie’s website, which includes a section of anglicisms to be avoided in favor of their authentic French equivalents. The site warns against use of the words “networking”, “hotline” and “brainstorming”, suggesting instead “travail en réseau”, “numéro d’urgence”, et “remue-méninges” as proper French alternatives. The desire to safeguard the French language from English influence is also evident in the backlash to a 2013 proposition allowing French universities to teach a small number of courses in English. Although the bill passed, its critics called it a betrayal of national heritage and L’Académie Française went so far as to deem the proposal “linguistic treason.”

While certain sections of French society may regard the use of English words as a threat to national culture, the very need of L’Académie Française to dissuade French speakers from adopting anglicisms illustrates that not all French speakers share this attitude. Here lies a national quandary: though the French are fiercely proud of their language and seek to protect its evolution from foreign influence, many speakers are also eager to adopt English terms, phrases, and culture into their speech and way of life. For example, Isabel’s host sister has asked for American music recommendations that she can share with her friends. Additionally, nearly half of the movies shown at the local theaters in the last month have been American productions, some of which are shown with the original English soundtrack and French subtitles. Furthermore, many Dickinson students have been approached for babysitting jobs by parents seeking an English-speaking caretaker to improve their child’s acquisition of the language. These examples clearly demonstrate that English is popular and its status will not soon subside.

Should the French be worried about the increased use of anglicisms?

From an American point of view, the French perception of this issue a bit difficult to understand. News articles with dramatic titles such as “La langue française en danger?” (Le Monde), “Il y a une soumission française à l’anglais” (Le Figaro) and “Faut-il bannir les anglicismes?” (Europe1) reflect fears that do not exist to the same degree in the United States, a country with no official national language. Perhaps these seemingly alarmist French perspectives can be linked to the language’s apparent decline within the international sphere. For example, the percentage of French articles used in the European Commission decreased by 29 percentage points between 1997 and 2009; in contrast, English articles made up 72% of European Commission documents in 2006. Instances like these seem to beg the question as to whether the French language is losing prominence in favor of English and what should be done about it.

Ultimately, is this blending of languages and cultures a positive result of globalization and exchange, or a harmful threat to French identity and culture? Clearly, there are a multiplicity of different responses to this question among French citizens, and to give a single, sweeping answer fails to acknowledge the diversity of opinions among the French regarding their own language. In our increasingly globalized world, and throughout the remainder of our time as students here in Toulouse, it will be interesting to see in what ways the French reconcile these seemingly opposing interests: the desire to maintain linguistic heritage and tradition on one side, and the desire to participate in a system of global interchange increasingly dominated by the English language.

Discovering the Spirit of Strikes

Editors: Phoebe, Isabelle, Katherine, Ryan A., James.

The University Strikes

It has been almost two months since those of us studying at the University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès have had class. When we arrived in January, some of the professors and students had already been striking for several weeks because they were against fusing with other universities in Toulouse and the system of applying and being accepted into college, similar to what we have in the US, which President Macron wants to introduce as one of his goals relating to “education reform.”

A phenomenon that exists in French universities that we don’t have in the US is the one called Assemblées Générales (or AG for short) which allow a small percentage of the student population of a school to decide what is going to happen for the entire university. This is a time where students can decide the actions that are going to be taken during the period of strikes, which became a period of full blockage in our case at UT2J. Everyone comes together in a large lecture hall where they can speak of their opinions in front of everyone who presented themselves at the time of the AG. These AG’s are meant to be a time where people can inform themselves and hear the opinions of others. Strike culture is very strong in France, but somehow it seems as though this culture is much stronger on our campus. We talk a lot about how this type of blockage could never happen in an American university.

The Rail Strikes

As we are writing this blog post, we are currently on a bus en route to Paris rather than on a train because of the SNCF strikes. At the beginning of the semester, it was planned to go to Paris April 14th by train, but a month ago a schedule for the strikes was published. Between April and June there will be between two and four days a week of SNCF strikes. That’s why we are traveling by bus today, April 13th. Our situation isn’t too exceptional. Many people in France are affected by these strikes.

The SNCF strikes are mainly a result of proposed changes by President Macron. Historically speaking, the SNCF workers have received a lot of benefits and vacation days because their work was very difficult and physical. Today, the nature of this work has changed a lot due to technology. Macron would like to put in place economic reforms that include the reduction of benefits and vacation days, as well as a later retirement age. As one can see, the SNCF workers are very angry with these potential changes. At least for us these strikes mean that we have an extra day in Paris!

The Strikes Don’t Prevent Us From Cultivating Our Minds

To argue that a 9-hour bus ride from Toulouse to Paris is enjoyable would be difficult. That being said, the Jean Jaures students having had no class for six weeks on end, we are excited to resume our studies in the country’s capital. In particular our visit to the national assembly will hopefully shed light on governmental processes and policies that have led to this period of strike both for the universities and public transportation. This is a rare opportunity seldom offered to Parisians, even more so French citizens, and we hope to take full advantage of visit. In fact, the majority of events scheduled for our time in Paris are off the beaten path and are specific to our group. Sunday morning, we will visit the Centre Pompidou before its opening and follow a guided tour that will shed light on some of the world’s foremost pieces of modern and contemporary art. Having already conducted a project on modern and contemporary art earlier in the semester, this will be a perfect opportunity to continue our studies. Our foray into the arts, however, does not stop with our visit to the Centre Pompidou. Tuesday evening, we will be transported to 18th century French theater by Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance at the Porte Saint-Martin Theater. Marivaux’s romantic comedy, using stock characters from the Commedia dell’arte will improve our comprehension of not only the French language, but of French humor as well. At the very least, our time in Paris will allow us to better learn another city of France and help complete our integration into French language and culture.

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