In order to make the most of my staying in France, I totally immersed myself in its culture; notably by spending lots of time drinking, partying and playing 'social games' (who can think of any other stuff that is more French than these anyway?). So this is probably a real guide to a French real-life experience (yeah, you bet), not just a passing tourist who merely skims its haute cuisine or Gallery Lafayette to buy some Yves St Laurent or Dior, as if they're not made in China and are not available in a local departement store across the road and do not cost like buying a little town in a third-world country.
So to be French, one must:
- plan the next holiday right after a holiday, preferably on the first day of work. This is completely sensible, otherwise what is the point of working all the way until the next holiday?
- go to the pharmacy more often than going to the restaurant or movies. Of course French people also go to the restaurant, don't get me wrong. But not too often because it may look like you're so lame at cooking. Also, showing off a bit of home-made meal is a French way to charm guests. They go to movies once in a while, especially on Tuesday when there's a "buy one get one" thing with one mobile phone provider. In France downloading movies from the internet is illegal, but if an officer finds you downloading one, he/she will just suggest another site that is more secure to download movies. While adding a downloaded movie on top of a delicious self-made speciality will be a perfect scenario for spending a nice evening, ones can not drug themselves unless they get an endless supply of drugs. Viola the pharmacy.
- talk with a lot of of puffing sounds. If you want to sound French, add a 'pfft', 'brrp' or 'beuf' occasionally, so even if our French level is the same as Spanish cow, we'll still sound so natural and so French indeed.
- live through a strike. French people go on strike every now and then to make a point that some of them have a point and they are free to express it by making other people wait a long time, walk a long distance or other minor inconveniences. Still, it's good to see a country allowing its citizens to speak out and aloud, therefore the Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
- kiss everyone (yes, don't miss anyone please) at the party, especially if you come late and leave early. Unfortunately this kiss will be meaningless pecks on the cheek, but we may get lucky sometimes and a hunky bloke will land wet smooches on both cheeks (amen).
- have a lunch or dinner only at a particular, scheduled time of the day. Restaurants in France only open for a couple of hours in the afternoon and about the same 'office hours' in the evening. The restaurants are quite strict about their schedule, even the bars serving hot food will refuse to make a sandwich if you come at the wrong time of the day. You can get some peanuts and alcohol instead, at the very best. For people whose home country has foodstalls that open 24/7, this may reminisce of those days of wars in military camp where food was rationed and people stood in line holding bowls and one must be careful not to queue too long to miss the feeding hours. PS. Pharmacy has longer office hours.
- take one day off for filling out the tax form. Or maybe two, just in case there is a problem with it. We never know.
- leave a shitty job for a dole. If you don't have a good job, just quit because the government unemployment support pays better.
- take up an activity or interest outside the job. Or maybe two activities. Or three. Or four. French people are very good at using their spare time and they do practically all cool stuffs imaginable apart from their work. Boating, jumping, surfing, wind surfing, horse riding, flying, playing musical instruments, all types of dancing, kayaking, cycling, boxing, martial arts, mountaineering, climbing, hiking, skiing, scuba diving or car racing, to name but a few. Other people do it as well, but not as often, as common, as much nor as many kinds at once (I believe).
- do all the shopping on Saturday evening because stores are closed on Sunday. If you really need something on Sunday that you can't delay till the following day, go to the Arab stores (it's not being racist, it's just called this way). They're a bit more expensive than the grande surface like Carrefour or Super U, but they have more friendly office hours.
- not eat frog legs or snails. What a stereotype, like Chinese always eats dogs. But no, they eat everything. Frog legs and snails are just for tourists who believe that these are the food French people normally eat every day. In fact, they eat mostly 'normal' food, apart from the duck liver pâté or foie gras, of course. Normal is just too relative but apparently when I was in France, frogs were just out of fashion.
Despite all those lovely things, I like France for their innate ability to enjoy themselves and to complain a bit just not to make their good life sound too perfect. I will write more about "How to be Indonesian" just to have more fun and to be fair to myself.