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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Buying Cough Drops in France, a whole new experience

So I’ve started feeling sick today, I blame it on the metro, and decided to go get some cough drops after work. Now this is nothing new for me as I’ve bought cough drops on a few occasions here, again I blame the metro. But now that I have my blog I feel as though I should share this oddity that is buying cough drops in France with everyone else so as to bring a little humor into their lives.

So in France it seems there is only one place to buy cough drops, and that is at the Pharmacy. That alone I find kind of odd, but then again this is France and they are big on their specialty shops and not on their one stop shops like we love so much in the U.S. So ok, I go to the Pharmacy to get cough drops, no big deal, except they’re behind the counter. That means I have to go up to the pharmacist and ask for cough drops and then he’ll get them for me. I can’t just go in and look at the various brands/flavors/prices to pick out which one I want, I get the ones the pharmacist grabs for me. I find this odd because quite frankly I don’t understand the logic behind it. I can buy cigarettes out of vending machines, but I have to ask a pharmacist for cough drops. I can go to any doctor and tell them to write me a prescription for whatever medicine I want, yet I have to ask a pharmacist for cough drops. Are they afraid I’m going to abuse cough drops? Even if that is their concern, why do they have no way of limiting how much I buy? I mean the pharmacies are on every corner and they don’t take any information from me when I purchase them so I could easily run to every pharmacy in my vicinity to stock up on cough drops to feed my habit. Will I ever understand why they treat cough drops this way? Considering we’re dealing with the French my guess is no, I never will understand because there probably is no reason except “that’s just the way we do it.”

Monday, April 18, 2005

Culture Clash Over A Piece Of Foil And Some Spaghetti

So this weekend I was fortunate enough to witness an international incident as some are calling it. It all started when Diane, Meredith, Danielle and I decided to go have dinner at a pizza place not far from Danielle and mine’s apartment. We’ve eaten there several times already and the owner/waiter recognizes us when we come in and has always been very friendly with us. However, things are forever changed now and this is why. Things started off as normal, the owner/waiter was very excited to see us and talk to us. We ate our meals and enjoyed them very much. However, Diane had lots of left over spaghetti. Not wanting to waste it she asks for a box to take it home. The waiter then informs her that this is just not done in France and that yes he allowed Danielle to do it once but he can’t let this happen every time because it’s just not done in France. Diane and Danielle insist on wanting to take it home and finally he brings it out wrapped up in foil. At this point he is no longer talking to us and barely looks at us. We have to get up to ask for the check and when he comes over to give it to us he barely speaks to us. He then decides to tell Danielle in French that we just can’t keep asking to take stuff home in France to which Danielle responds with “it’s my right to take it home as I paid for it.” At this the waiter says that is disputable and Danielle responds with saying “well next time we will go to another restaurant.” He says fine and that is the end of all communication with him. So now because of a piece of foil, some left over spaghetti, and stubbornness, Danielle and I can no longer go to our pizza restaurant with the excellent 4 cheese pizza.

Yes I know we should have been more “culturally sensitive” and respected the fact that in France you don’t ask to take your left overs home. But it still seems absolutely ridiculous to us that they 1) would rather throw it out then let us take home what we paid for (especially in a country so big on not wasting food) 2) lose repeating customers over something as small as that 3) be that stubborn about such a small aspect of their culture. If you ask me I think this is just a perfect example of how terrified the French are that Americans are influencing their culture as well as how darn stubborn they can be, not to mention contradictory. For a country that thrives off of tourism I say it’s time to face the facts that you are going to have to flex some and stop being so scared that American culture is going to take over your country. We don’t want to take over, we just want you to learn to be more logical ;)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Berlin: Not only fun but educational as well

Yes it has been a while since I have last written. I’ve been busy trying to start my thesis and design my website so I have a real one and of course I have to squeeze some fun and travel in there sometimes.

So since my last entry I took off for Berlin for an extended weekend with Danielle (my roommate and fellow Pepperdine student). Rogge (Pepperdine IMBA studying in Stuttgart, Germany) meet up with us in Berlin and the three of us spent our weekend soaking up all the history that the city had to offer. My only experience with Germany before this trip was from my trip to Munich back in October for Oktoberfest. I didn’t really see much of Munich but from what I could tell it was VERY clean and orderly and well met my expectations of Germany. Berlin on the other hand surprised me. I guess I should have half expected it, knowing that the city has had and continues to have many problems. However, I guess I still just figured it’s Germany and it should be like the rest of Germany. The city itself has undergone massive reconstruction and continues to to the day. The buildings are so much more modern than most European cities and it just doesn’t really have that “European” feel (at least not to me). Some parts of the city did and the more I walked around the more it did feel “European”. But aside from that, it’s dirty, lots of construction, and comes off as much poorer than other parts of Europe or Germany. This being said you probably get the impression that I didn’t really enjoy Berlin. That’s not at all the case. I really enjoyed my time in Berlin and really grew to like the city a lot.

Danielle and I took the night train leaving Paris on Friday night and arriving Saturday morning. That was 12 hours on the train, which wouldn’t have been too bad had we sprung for the beds. However, being the travelers that we are and having the mindset that if we go a little cheaper on this trip that’s money we could put towards another trip; so we opted to go with just the regular seats. We were a little concerned upon first boarding the train, but we surprisingly managed to get quite a bit of sleep on the train, although very restless sleep. But alas we made it to Berlin Saturday morning. We found the hostel, dropped our luggage off and went shopping, in their large new Mall/Sony Center, as Rogge wasn’t due to arrive until a few hours later. We had a fine hamburger for lunch in an American diner and then met Rogge at the hostel. So for some reason we started off our Berlin trip very American like. But that soon changed. After Rogge arrived, we went in search of the tourism office but never actually found it. We wound up just walking around for the rest of the day then went back to the hostel showered then went out for a real German meal and then some Berlin night life. Had a great night, but maybe too much fun as the next day we woke up quite early for our all day walking tour on the history of Berlin. We figured this would be a great way to see the city and learn the history and by all day they didn’t really mean ALL day, did they? Well apparently they did because it turned out to be a 9 hour walking tour. But I’d say well worth the 10 euros it cost. It was amazing to hear all the history behind this city, never really realized the extent of it all and seeing parts of the Berlin wall still erected gave an eerie feeling of what it must have been like to live back then with the wall. We all enjoyed ourselves and that night had a great German dinner.

The next day was beautiful but a bit of a bust as far as seeing stuff, for with the exception of one museum the others we wished to see were all closed due to it being Easter Monday (here in Europe they celebrate Easter Monday and not Good Friday like we do). Danielle and I desperate to still find an apple strudel (so far this whole weekend we had been “too late” for an apple strudel every time we tried to get one) marched all over the city in search of a place where we weren’t “too late” for the apple strudel. At last we finally found one, actually the same one we had come across on our first day there while shopping, and it was by far the best one we had ever seen. We purchased that and a pretzel, got our bags and boarded our train for the trip back to Paris. Again 12 hours on the train and this time we got to go to work when we arrived, after going back to the apartment and showering of course. All in all a great trip and it was great seeing Rogge again and getting to watch him use his German. So a big thanks to our translator!