I've been really annoyed this week and last week with the French as I'm remembering and experiencing how slow, inefficient and inconsistent they can be. Every day, things take so much longer than they should and it becomes draining when you're used to living in a place where life moves fast and businesses/stores are open when you need them to be.
In France, I can expect to wait at least ten minutes in line at the grocery store at any given point during the day. The store doesn't even have to be that busy, but the cashiers and the whole check out process is painfully slow so there's always a line. Last weekend, I waited in line for 20 minutes to buy bananas and cereal. I could have left and come back, but I knew that the line would be just as bad when I returned. A different day, I waited at the US consulate to get something notarized...for three hours. I was directed to five different windows before I got the notarized stamp I needed. Why one person couldn't look at my passport, hand me a sheet to fill out, notarize that sheet and then accept the payment – I have no idea. It's a five person job apparently. Last Sunday, I went to Marie's to have lunch at noon and it ended at 5pm. Things taking forever is normal here, but hard to get used to.
Coupled with extreme slowness, there is the other problem that businesses aren't open when I feel like they should be. For example, my bank is closed Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. When they are open, their hours are 10:30 am – 6:00 pm, but they are closed from 12:30pm – 1:45 pm for lunch. Another fun thing about the bank is that although there are branches everywhere, they basically operate as separate entities. If I want to do anything other than get money from the ATM, I need to go back to the bank that first opened my account which, now that I've moved, is a good ½ hour away by metro. The banks here are really intimidating, too, because they are so secure. The French may be inefficient, but they are smart. You have to ring a doorbell before entering the bank and then the person at the front desk buzzes you in – if your face is covered you won't be let in – and everything is recorded on camera. I have had several meetings with my banker, that's right – I have my own personal banker that I work with (because they made me) – and her office is so secure we need a code to get in and a code to get out of the door. So basically, I have to be super efficient during the week with getting everything taken care of because come the weekend, most things are closed. Sundays are the worst because basically all stores are closed – grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants, bakeries, etc.
My frustrations escalated last weekend when I was walking up the stairs coming out of the metro stop by my apartment and I was caught behind a few people going extremely slow (it's always something stupid that's the breaking point). But really, a child learning how to crawl could have climbed the stairs faster than these people. So I was doing the people equivalent of tailgating when I surfaced and had a reality check...an illuminated Eiffel Tower was staring me in the face and sparkling (it has a “light show” on the weekends at night for the first few minutes of every hour). At this point, I realized I have nothing to complain about – on the contrary, I'm a pretty lucky girl right now because I'm doing what I've always wanted to do. I came here for school and for a cultural experience...if I wanted easy access to everything all the time I should have stayed in Minneapolis. Slowing down isn't so bad. This picture doesn't do it justice, but this is the Eiffel Tower's light show at night:
And in case you're wondering...still no internet at the apartment. It's France!