So, what do you like about France?
For years I have been asked this same question and for years I have struggled to find a good answer. Whenever a colleague, friend, relative, or complete stranger presents me with this dreaded query, I always end up stumbling over my words and spitting out some incomprehensible response that vaguely resembles "I like cheese." Equally difficult is trying to explain the things I don't like about France. Maybe it's because these topics are so broad, and even a bit unclear that explains my deer-in-the-headlights reaction. I mean, asking someone what they like about France is like asking someone what they like about life. The respondent could go on, and on, and on...
In an effort to better focus my next answer, I did a little online research about typical American praises and criticisms of France, French culture, and the French themselves. As it turns out, most of the information I found was remarkably similar. American likes generally boil down to food, wine, ample vacation time, and accessible health care, while their dislikes are linked to irregular shop hours, lack of civic sense, and dirtiness (for American women you can add catcalling in the streets - our punishment for the sin of going out in public). Internet references aside, I realized that these were the same yeas and nays I'd been hearing from my American friends who are either currently in Paris or have spent time in France. And while I agree with them, it still doesn't seem like the right answer to give. These are the collective feelings; what are my feelings?
Maybe I'll never be able to correctly explain what it is I like about France. How do you explain years of experiences in one concise statement? In short: you can't. So I'll keep my answer to a nice bullet pointed list of the joys and pains of spending time in this crazy, amazing, maddening, beautiful country and skip the babbling speech. The person asking the question will be glad I did.