After three years, I’ve got used to most differences between France and the UK. I’ve got used to not being able to eat dinner in a restaurant before 7pm, and I’ve got used to the odd supermarket hours. However, once you’re in the supermarket (before 12pm and after 3pm), there are still a few things that fox me. For example:
1. Lentils. Where are the red lentils? In any big supermarket in the UK you can choose from a few different brands of red lentils. And you can get brown lentils, green lentils and organic lentils. Not so here. If you want the green ones (French, puy lentils), there’s metres of them. Brown ones haven’t been invented yet. As for the red ones, they can only be found in the specialised bio section. Even then they’re not really red, more like golden green and turn your ham and lentil soup a funny colour. Taste great though!
2. Milk. This is a good one. Whereas in the UK half the shop is taken up with fresh milk, here in France, there’s maybe a dozen bottles. And if get there in the afternoon, they’ll all be gone. But you know that nasty long-life chemical stuff? There’s half an aisle of that.
3. Sugar. Another puzzle. In the UK you can get refined white sugar, caster sugar, demerara sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, cane sugar, muscovado sugar and probably a few others I’ve forgotten. Here in France, granulated sugar was invented about eighteen months ago. Until then you could only buy sugar cubes. About six months ago cane sugar was introduced. And that’s about it.
4. Vinegar. It seems to me the French are a bit snobbish about their vinegar. You know you’ve got cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, malt vinegar, rice vinegar as well as balsamic vinegar. Forget it. If it’s not balsamic, you’re going to have trouble. Well, you can buy white wine vinegar on the wine shelf, but that’s a story for another day.
And there’s one other thing that really puzzles me. The radio. Here in France, Lily Allen’s track ‘Fuck You’ has been played constantly, for months, all day long on public radio. No BBC-type account taken of any nine year old delicate ears that might be listening. It’s all there for everyone to hear. I guess French kids are a bit more robust than their British counterparts when it comes to having their minds polluted by things they hear on the radio!