Bicycle tires in France have different valves, complex yet ingenious little things that screw out (to inflate) and back in (to seal). Perhaps this style is more widespread than I know, but this is my first encounter.
Car radios are smart. There’s a switch you can flip that will keep the same radio station (or network) tuned, even if you’re traveling a long distance and the actual frequency changes several times.
Escalators are on the other side. Which is to say the “up” is on the left, not the right as it is in Canada. And vice versa.
Milk for tea is served hot. And it also appears to be something of a novelty to order milk with tea at all, as when I order, as instructed by my phrase book, thé au lait I’m often greeted with a quizical (in French) “you mean you’d like some tea, with a little pitcher of milk on the side?”
Aluminum is still in vogue. I couldn’t figure out with the space-age light material that various spoons were made of until Catherine told me it was aluminum. There are also three standard spoon sizes, with an intermediate size betwen our “tea” and “table” spoons.
Credit cards have PIN numbers. Whenever we pay by credit card there is confusion because we don’t have a smart chip in our cards, and need to actually sign the slip rather than typing in a PIN number. I assume this means the French system is an amalgam of our “Interac” and credit card systems, but I’m not sure. Oddly, when paying road tolls on the autoroutes I’ve been able to just slide my card in the slot, and it comes back to me immediately and the gate opens with no “we’re checking to make sure you have enough money” wait. I wonder if they’ve just decided to eat any charges that might arise in return for smoother flowing traffic at the toll plazas.
Milk is sold in “last forever” sterilized packages. Try as we might we’ve not been able to find milk in the “fresh” form that we’re used to at home. Grocery stores have entire aisles where milk is sold in Tetrapak or similar containers, sterilized and sealed and with no need of refrigeration until opened.
Everyone says “bonjour.” Really. Well, perhaps not in the big cities, but here in Aniane everyone we meet, from child to adult, plasterer to businessperson, strange and familiar, says “bonjour” or “bon soir” to us (and to each other) on the street. It’s very endearing.
The country has an excellent tagline. In the annals of three-word phrases, you gotta say that Liberte Egalite Fraternite is a pretty good one. And it appears on every public building, school and piece of official documentation we’ve seen. Canada needs branding like this.