So here I am as an Aussie-Expat living in France and I’ve can’t help but compare the two countries, now that I’m a ‘travailleur temporaire’ (temporary worker) I do not have the gloss of being a tourist on holiday to destract me from what it is really like to live here and been thinking about the pros and cons of living in both France and Australia.
First let’s start with what France does better than Australia
1. Long lunches and holidays: The French seem to acknolwedge that just because you take a break or want to eat a decent lunch during your working day doesn’t make you lazy, most schools have at least an hour for lunch and the idea of having anything less would be an ‘scandal!‘. They also get more holidays than us, in fact in the French language the word for holiday is always plural – it is always ‘holidays’ not holiday – since you never have just one 🙂
2. 5 course meals every day Everyone at school (including the teachers) get a hot 5 course meal every day for about $3.50. This meal usually includes
– An appetiser
– Main meal with sides
– Yoghurt or cheese
Plus as much water/bread as you like
3. Dental care: Dentistry is heavily subsidised by the Government, it costs almost nothing to look after your teeth
4. French produce: There’s something amazing about French bread – how do they do it?! Even the bakery at the supermarket smells of freshly baked baguettes and croissants. Not to mention the range of French speciality chocoaltes, pastries and local fresh fruit and vegies – yep, France is definitely living up to its food reputation
5. Holidays: In 7 months as a teacher I’m going to get 7 weeks of paid holiday. Most other professions have 5 weeks off a year, compared to Australia’s 4.
6. It’s easy to get into uni: In France getting into uni is about passing/failing your BAC (equivelent to our HSC/VCE), you need to get at least 50% in your subjects – from what I hear is not that hard to do, and if you do that you’re in your course. While in Australia kids are devestated if they just miss out by a few points the E.N.T.E.R score they need because it means we won’t get into the course we wanted. Unsuprisingly almost every French kid goes onto tertiary education after high school.
7. Ease of travel: While its not Australia’s fault it’s almost the size of Europe it’s great to be able to get around such a rich and varied country in a fairly short amount of time. In just a few hours by train I can go from cities to provincial villages, the alps and country-side.
8. Better regional public transport: In France people who live in the country have much better public transport than their Australian conterparts. I’m currently living in a town with 30,000 less people than Ballarat but there is a bus during the week every 10-15 minutes, even 20 mins on a Saturday and every hour on a Sunday (until about 9pm). It pisses me off when I think that Ballarat still only has 1 bus every half hour during the week and by the time it gets around to Sunday there are only 7 services for the day – and this is a town with almost 100,000 people.
Now… onto where Australia is beating France…
1. School days: We start school at 9 and finish at 3.30 (French kids start at 8am and don’t finish until 5.30 or 6pm)
2. The ease of opening a bank acccount: Even for foreigners opening a bank account is so simple, I know expats in France who have waited 6 weeks to get their’s up and running. Even after 3 weeks here I am still waiting on getting a cheque book – because even though my account is activated and I have received my bank card, I can’t get a cheque book for at least 15 days – WTF??
Update: Scratch that, turns out I can’t get my cheque book until I receive my ‘titre de sejour’ – a stamp from the French Office of Immigration and Integration, thing is I do not know when I will get this stamp. In two months, three months – who knows? So no cheque book for me…
3. Opening hours: Shops open on Sundays, 24 hour supermarkets – we are very spoilt in Oz.
4. School subject choice: Even though we complain about having to do English in Year 12, French kids get a lot less choice. For their final year they choose a set of subjects – usually either a bunch of Literature/English-type subjects, a group of Maths/Science subjects or a set of Languages/World studies subjects. I know of plenty of schools where learning English as a second subject is now compulsory all the way to through to the final year too. In Australia you can mix your English unit with a range of Science, Maths, Arts and Language subject – pretty much whatever we want.
5. No Schools on Saturdays: In France, you can have class on a Saturday morning (once upon a time this used to balance out because they also had Wednesday afternoon off, but now this is very rare and only happens in primary schools if at all)
6. Public toilets are free: It may be only 20 cents to use a public toilet, but I still feel to piss is a civil right I don’t want to pay for…
7. Check-out chicks bag your stuff: In France whenever you go to a supermarket/shop you have to bag your own groceries
8. Lack of strikes/protests: A strike in Australia is often a last resort or when something very controversal happens – in France it seems to be the first thing anyone decides to do when they have a problem. In 3 weeks I have already had my day screwed over by strikes/protests 4 times. Strikes and protests mean block roads, late buses (or no buses at all for the day), closed shops etc. I wonder if the French realise they just end up pissing off the average citizen rather than the people who caused their problems in the first place?
9. Banks open on Mondays: In France every Monday is a Bank Holiday
10. Lack of Smoking: Although France has made some good progross on protecting non-smokers from cigarette smoke – banning smoking in all bars/restaurants at train stations etc, plus raising taxes on the price of cigarettes and sticking ‘smoking kills’ labels on packages it seems some stereotypes remain true. They do smoke a bit too much for my liking…
Results So far Australia is beating France (by 2 extra ‘pros’) I don’t know whether there’s a bit of homesickness talking… but I’ve tried to be the objective journalist and base my list on what I’ve observered rather than stereotypes/generalisations. But I’ve still got 6 and a half months to go here and we’ll see who wins in the end!