Thursday, June 19, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere but not a Drop to Drink

After spending a little time in France, you might start to get the feeling that something is missing. Maybe it's after a long walk to a tourist site, or after using a public restroom, or even after class if you happen to be a student here. You start to get look around...but you just can't seem to find one. I'm talking about drinking fountains, bubblers, watering holes. However you call them, in France, they are few and far between.

In fact, they are so rare that as I started typing this entry realized I didn't even know the French word for them. After a quick check of the trusty dictionary, I now know that a drinking fountain is a fontaine publique, but I still don't know why I never seem to be able to find one here. I mean, remember when you were in elementary school and one of the more important lessons you learned was proper drinking fountain etiquette? Don't put your mouth on the spout, don't drink for too long if there are others behind you, and whatever you do, don't push a person who is drinking as this could cause them to knock out their front teeth. To this day, these thoughts still cross my mind as I go in for swig. Do French kids even have fountains in their classrooms?

Now, I realize that as far as eternal mysteries of the universe go, this one might not make the top 10 list. Most people, and certainly the French, probably don't care that they could count the number of drinking fountains in l'héxagone on one hand. But I think it's fascinating to contemplate what makes some societies value public access to potable water - or anything else for that matter - while others do not. Discovering little differences in the daily lives of people from two difference cultures is one of the things I love most about living in a foreign country. Just remember: when in France, never leave home without a recently topped-off water bottle.


Cancemini4 said...

"Um, sir? I don't think that eau is potable..."

Tanya said...

Lol! I can't believe he drank that stuff.