In response to recent GUARDIAN postings from Europe this transplant offers a
By JIM V.
There is a difference between visiting the continent and living there. Today, I write from a veranda, leftover glass of Merlot in hand, while I look over a vinyard to the hills about a mile to the south. The pool goes unused as the temperature is ‘only’ perhaps 80degrees with a breeze and my wife, acclimated to Boise, complains of cold.
France does many things right. The food is amazing and the attitude laid
back. They also do a LOT of things wrong. My inlaws had an electrician over
last Thursday. He had been pursued for months to do what would be one days
rewiring in the USA. The EU bureaucrats have made ‘work’ such a trial that
he was working off the books. His one day job will take at least 3 and the
next segment wil not happen in the near future.
Recycling is a scam. They only pick up garbage (the disposal is almost unknown here). All trash and bottles must be delivered to the recycle centers by the citizens. Of
course, this did not involve a tax reduction to reflect lowered city costs and, of course, it involves almost daily trips to the recycle center in cars runing on gas costing almost $7 a gallon, mostly in taxes.
There is no A/C anywhere. The French had over 10,000 die in an August heat
wave a few years ago. The lesson learned was to register all the old folk so
they would know who died if it happened again. Then, as the entire country
was on holiday, no medical care was available, and, as no one had A/C, no
ability to get cool existed.
The Provencales do not use screens on their windows. The travel writer,
Peter Maile noted the tendency of the homes to fill with bugs or bats to the
dismay of guests but he does not note this singular and rather obvious
solution…put in screens. In addition, to thwart burglars and home
invasion, as no windows have screens, everyone closed their solid wooden
shutters every night, guaranteed to raise the temperature inside to a nice
toasty 80 deg or so…
Roads, even major ones, are only about a lane and a half wide. In addition,
these roads are without anything approaching a breakdown lane or sidewalk.
Needless to say, traffic deaths are rampant. The bureaucrats in Brussles are
hated by the locals with a ferver that makes our dislike for government
officials look minor. That thousands die on the roads while bureaucrats
insist on rules mandating alarms on pools, well, they just shake their
heads. The wierd thing is, unlike the citizens in Italy, where such petty
rules and annoying mandates are ignored, here in Provence, the locals
actually pay attention.
One thing I can say with some assurance is that the waters are pretty
polluted, by US standards. Farm runoff is either ignored or the rules
regulating it are waived. The local streams are sort of gray.
I spent a while in the local post office. Even the post is vastly
innefficient. The woman manning the counter could not be more friendly and
helpful BUT simple postage was expensive, took a while, and resulted in a
giant receipt the size of a legal paper.
So far, the normal table wines we are consuming, in copious quantities, are
not as good as the local Idaho wines, especially the whites. Local beer is
also inferior to our microbrews. Supermarkets look like a combination of
Walmarts and gourmet specialty shops. One can buy a flat screen HDTV or an
anchovy paste spread to die for. There are counters and counters of cheeses
and breads, but the store is dirty. In contrast, the local butcher and
bakery are spotless as are the stalls at the markets.
Another annoyance…all parking spots are designed for cars about the size of
an old VW while most folk drive the same sort of cars we do. Everyone has to
get out of the car before it is parked and the driver fends for themself. I
don’t know how old folk manage.
There is constant conversation about the infrastructure here as in Idaho but
unlike Idaho, improvements seldom involve new roads. It is about 3 miles to
the town of Uzes from here, as the bird flys, by road it is perhaps twice
that. In addition, massive flooding of a few years ago, flooding that put
many roads and bridges under meters of water, we fixed by tfhe appearance of
a host of signs advising tfhe roads may flood when it rains. Building a new
road or one that straight is very rare. All they do is add pavement to old
narrow roads without curb or sidewalk. In front of the house there is a 3 ft
drop from the pavement into the ditch with all of 6 inches between the lane
and the hole.
When someone tells you how well the EU does things, ask at what
price and what things.
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Aug 20, 2007, 10:59 pm
It would be easy to think of the French as a bunch of overbearing, pompous shits who couldn’t do anything right, even if the directions were in english and we showed them the way.
Except, they were smart enough to not invade Iraq for something done by a bunch of Saudis.
Don’t you just hate it when the frogs get it right?
EDITOR NOTE– You mean like when they financed our fight for freedom from the Brits in 1776 or when they sent the Liberty Statue over to NYC?
Aug 20, 2007, 11:18 pm
Interesting post. I spent a few weeks in Europe a really long time ago. It was a fun trip and I had no negative experiences. Everyone I communicated with seemed to be OK with sign language and frequent references to my French/English dictionary. Actually there were a lot of people who knew English a lot better than I knew any other language. (Does Latin count?)
I loved the description of everyday life. Guess when I decide to move it won’t be to Europe. Thanks for your reliving your experiences.
Aug 21, 2007, 10:09 pm
Thanks for sharing your experiences. Idaho is a great place to live. The natives don’t know how good that they have it.