Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Few Things I Learned in Nice, France

I meant to post this a few days ago (in the middle of my trip) but it kept getting put off... I'll have more pictures in a few days once I get home to a computer that can actually handle images without slowing way down...

Anyway, here's a few things I learned in Nice, France:

  • Look both ways before you cross the street. Then... look again just in case. Those little scooters move fast!
  • You can tell a lot about what a culture values based on shelf-space in a supermarket. The French value cheese, hard-crusted bread, olive oil, and hosiery. Americans value fresh milk in volume and breakfast cereal.
  • ATMs are a better way to get euros than currency exchange. Some people say they have hefty fees (although my statement hasn't reflected any huge fees). But, either way, withdraw in large chunks just to be safe.
  • Apparently, if your waiter says his credit card machine is broken, that means you have the wrong kind of credit card (I guess American cards do not have a microchip to make them "smart" like European cards). I got that once at a local restaurant. In other words, never assume you can just use credit!
  • You CAN drink the water. At least in the cities.
  • It is hard to buy food in volume, at least in the city. I'm not even sure if they have a Costco equivalent here! As an example, at right is a standard size of tomato sauce. As in the second largest (the largest is about a pint!).
  • The most important word to know is 'toilette'. At least three times I've been in a museum/restaurant/etc and asked for a bathroom and was met with very strange looks. One time, I completely forgot the French word and tried restroom, bathroom, etc. All I got was a blank look. So I went back and asked the guys I was with for the word, and when I said toilette to the server it was an immediate look of understanding.
  • Tipping is not really mandatory, but it's ok to leave a little if you want to. That, and no taxes, means that a dish listed on the menu for 15 euros will cost you... 15 euros. It has been glorious not to worry about the extra cost of items!
  • Nobody owns a cloths dryer. That's what your window is for! Although, my hotel expressly forbids hanging clothes to dry on the balcony!
  • Some toilets have two buttons. These can be confusing, especially when I don't know which button is for Number 1 and which is for Number 2. I love the idea though, and it'd be great for our house at night ("If it's yellow, let it mellow...").
  • If you can, avoid taxis. Apparently I'm going to be paying 30 euros tomorrow (about $45) for a 6 km ride to the airport. Most buses are $1 and trains are quite inexpensive too.
  • After five years of French in high school (and a delay of 13 years), 90% of French people speak better English than I speak French. Of the other 10%, most would not want to get into a conversation with a tourist anyway. (In the interest of not making anyone angry, I should say that almost everyone here is very nice and friendly -- they just all speak English very well!)
Anyway, I'll get more pictures up in a few days. I enjoyed my stay, but I'm definitely ready to go home now!

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