Patience is a virtue in France

The French countryside is beautiful, but you won't find a grocery store open Sunday afternoon.

The French countryside is beautiful, but you won’t find a grocery store open Sunday afternoon.

Waiting two hours for the grocery store to reopen from lunch. Waiting in the checkout line extra time because the cashiers start closing their lines an hour before the store does. Waiting two months for a 15-minute dentist appointment.

The operative word here is “waiting.”

With just a little over a month until I leave Guéret, as my time in France comes to an end, I reflect on how I’ve changed. What has France taught me besides a love of pastries that will be hard to fulfill in the U.S.?

I think I’ve become more patient. Living in France, especially in a small town, has necessitated me to wait more often than I ever have in the U.S. Take this normal situation: In the U.S., if it was a Sunday afternoon and I forgot to pick up an ingredient for dinner, I could just go to the store. Yes, it was annoying and I would curse myself for my forgetfulness, but I could easily fix the problem. In France (even Paris), if I forget an ingredient on a Sunday afternoon, then I can’t buy it again until Monday morning. (Grocery stores close about 1 p.m. on Sundays, if they open at all. France has complex laws against all-day Sunday openings.) All of this also applies to offices, stores, and businesses closing for two hours at lunch every weekday. I need to either plan ahead or wait.

In the U.S., this is an unheard of situation. If it’s daylight, there’s no doubt that the grocery store is open. It’s a culture of I want it now, and it has seeped into my behavior. I was downright agitated when I first moved to France and saw the hours for the local stores. I don’t think I realized the existence of that aspect of my personality since it’s just so normal in America. If I want something, I can get it. But middle-of-nowhere France has forced me to wait and develop patience.

It is for the better that I possess more patience. I’ve realized that maybe the French are onto something; we may not need 24/7 grocery stores. (Opening until 2 a.m. would probably do just fine.) Perhaps 24/7 is a marketing point more than anything. Nonetheless, I look forward to returning to America, where I never need worry about buying bread and milk on the Lord’s Day.


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