The customs of the country

28 March 2012 12:13 

Cigarette butts must be thrown down with a flick of contempt and look of disdain. Smoldering cigarettes may lie as they are or be extinguished with grinding motion of the ball of the foot. Brass ashtray stands are strictly decorative and may not be used for cigarette butts.

Garbage cans need not be used if it is easier to  simply drop the garbage on the ground.

Any car horn sounded must last a minimum of five seconds. If a car within fifteen meters of you begins to honk, you must honk your horn as a sign of solidarity,  honking for the minimum aforesaid duration.

If the car ahead of you does not accelerate within .0004 seconds of the light turning green you are expected to honk your horn (see above).

Dog poop may rest where it falls. No penalty.

Pedestrians may walk into traffic  as long as no car is within fifteen feet of the cross walk and moving more than twenty miles an hour. Slow moving cars and gaps of ten feet or more are valid opportunities to cross the street.

Motor scooters may cross over the yellow line or concrete median dividing the road and drive on the wrong side of the road if the motor scooter operator feels he has been unfairly delayed by traffic conditions.

Pedestrians must share the side walk with motor scooters and parked cars.

You will have to go to a non-halal butcher to find pork loin, pork chops, sausages, and pied de cochon.

No business will be successfully transacted on your first visit to the bank or OFII  (the French bureau that handles foreigners residing in France). You will have to return to the bank because the gas utility bill (as proof of residence)  from December is too old, and you need to present a more recent copy. You will need to return to the OFII because the EDF (utility company) did in fact add your name to the utility bill, but sadly, your name is not Blake Elbeur. Please have the EDF correct the spelling then return at a future date.

Although there is only a 26.4 hour work week and strict laws protecting workers,  street work done on a critical construction project outside your apartment will be done from 8:00pm until 2:00am nightly, to avoid disrupting city traffic.

To be cool you must have latest fashion in jackets, the Hefty bag look: jackets with outers that look like garbage bags. Also fashionable are track suits and U.S. Marshall sweats.

Even though you just told her that her toddler has wandered almost a half-block away, the Muslim woman at the tram station will barely acknowledge you said something to her and certainly won’t thank you.

Beggars may grab and insult you.

The National Police will be seen walking around everywhere, always in groups of  at least three. Sometimes there are military personnel walking around the city carrying automatic weapons. At the airport you’ll see the military personnel along with the El Al security guards at the airline check in counter, wearing side arms and bullet proof vest.

If there is to be a strike by teachers or cafeteria workers at the school you will be given notice ahead of time so you can make alternate arrangements for your child.

Your landlady will assure you that the bum sleeping outside your apartment door is harmless, that he has been doing so for years, and there’s no need for concern. Yes, it is unfortunate that he smokes so much, has a loud cough, and snores. But he does take all his bottles and cigarette butts with him when he leaves every morning.

Old men may or may not get out of your way on the narrow sidewalk when you are returning from Ikea with a not yet assembled couch on your shoulders.

Schedules at municipal pools may change at any time for any number of reasons. Despite whatever official schedules there are, you will know a pool is open only by going there. There is a 60% chance the pool will be closed because of a strike, utility work, a swim meet, or holiday that you didn’t know about.

Chilled beer and wine cost more than room temperature beer and wine.

Non-French cafes have only men as customers, dressed in dark colors,  serving  no alcohol.

A new key for your old building will cost 30€. The best place is the Armenian key and shoe repair guy, located on the mezzanine at the Noailles metro stop. To get to him you need to buy  a metro ticket.  While he cuts your key he’ll tell you about the time he visited Glendale.

No pho, no ramen, no tom ka gai (not a single luxury!):  Asian restaurants will not be as good as those in California. Finding authenticate,  spicy Asian food here will be impossible.

Expect to make at least three visits to that French butcher over in the 6th arrondissement before finally getting there when it is open.  Do not expect hours to be posted.

Cuts of beef will be different. T-bone? Rib eye? Short ribs?  Only roasts and ground beef will be easily recognized.

The battery guy (‘Mr. Pils’) has also visited California.  At first he won’t agree that the climates between Marseille and San Francisco are similar, but later in the conversation he will say as much.  While he tests your camera battery he’ll ask you why you are in Marseille and look twice at you when you say you’re living here for a while.

The baguettes here will be damn good.

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  1. Don’t forget that if you are on a scooter you must wear a blue jogging track suit with white stripes while smoking a cigarette driving down the street in the wrong direction while talking on the phone…

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