The Little ThingsNantes, Spring 2012
I decided it would be interesting to do a thematic post on some of the little things I have observed over here. This includes both differences and surprises. For example, the cars. Most Americans would not expect the French auto industry to be as strong as it is, or perhaps even as existent as it is. And yet, here in France, Renaults, Peugeuts, and Citroëns are the most common vehicles seen. I also have been told by a friend studying in Russia that they can be seen there, and when I went to Spain, I saw them everywhere.
Iron. The French love decorating with iron. Pictured are two examples of the many gates, doors, windows, fences, and decorations which involve wrought iron in varying levels of intricacy.
Plumbing. The picture of the outdoor plumbing admittedly shows a couple of pipes I think are used to drain from the roof. However, the ones on the left are from the inside of the building. It’s funny because once they get inside, they often remain outside the walls, because so few buildings were built with space left for hidden pipes. So, pipes are often seen to run along walls any which way. Be careful too, because some of them are hot!
Radiators. Speaking of hot water, a few pictures later, you’ll notice a radiator. These are everywhere, and I’m actually coming to kind of like them. Sometimes they’re nice to put a hand on with their warmth. However, their use entails an externality which I didn’t understand at first: buildings which use radiant heat do not have separate heaters for the water which runs through the radiators. So, when you go to the faucet, the water will be hot enough to scald you. I almost did this a few times as well.
Flushing. To keep it up with the plumbing theme, there are dozens of ways to flush in Europe. I only pictured two, because you can only take so many pictures in bathrooms before it gets awkward. However, another common method is the pull-up method, where a little handle sticks out in the same place as the central push button, except you pull it up. Another variant of that push button is one that is split in two: one button for less water, and another button for more water. I’ll let you figure out when and why you use different amounts. Finally, there are sometimes huge buttons on the wall behind the toilet. This I have most often seen in public rest rooms.
Finally, there are the eggs. French people aren’t afraid of room temperature. Sometimes they leave leftovers (meat included) on the counter, and many don’t even refrigerate their eggs. This seems terrifying to us, but I certainly haven’t died yet! Perhaps we are too afraid of germs. Or maybe they are not afraid enough. Or maybe, it’s somewhere in the middle.
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