A Blend of Cultures Exploring France Together

By Rosie Lacy


My first month in France has been such an eye-opening experience for me. I am spending the semester studying French at the Catholic University of Lyon, and within the time that I have been here, I have learned about so much more than just the language. My courses are full language immersion courses, taught entirely in French, bringing students from all over the world together in one classroom. 


This program has over 400 students from countries all over the world. Within my classes, there are students from Australia, Colombia, Nigeria, China, Japan, Russia, Iran, India, South Africa, South Korea, Greece, Bangladesh, and a variety of other countries across the world. One of the things I have appreciated most about this experience is the shared study of the French language allows me to communicate with students from these vastly different countries that I would likely not be able to communicate with otherwise. That being said, I was also somewhat shocked by the amount of people from all over the world who speak English as their second language. Many people, when seeking a word in French that they have not yet learned, express the word or the meaning in English rather than their native language. Before this experience, I did not realize how widespread the knowledge of English was in other parts of the world. Using these shared languages, primarily French, I have been able to learn not only about the culture of France but also about the cultures of so many different places in the world. This is something that I feel would not have been possible without the pursuit of proficiency in another language.


I have especially appreciated my newfound knowledge of France and French culture. Although I am based in Lyon for my studies, I have been able to travel to various other parts of France throughout the last month. In my classes, we have discussed many of the clichés that are held about French culture. For example: everyone wears berets and striped shirts, they all have a view of the Eiffel Tower from their window, and they only eat cheese, croissants, and escargots. However, I have been able to grow an appreciation for the true French culture which spans far beyond the clichés we see in typical American films & portrayals of the French. 


One thing I learned very quickly about France (especially the bigger cities like Lyon and Paris) is that people dress very elegantly. You will not see people walking around in leggings, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and other athleisure wear that is so common in America. However,  I spent a weekend in Annecy, an Alpine town under the influence of both French and Swiss culture. In Annecy, there is a large culture around being outdoors, there were running clubs at just about every place we went. Here it seemed more common for people to be dressed in running gear, or in gear that suggested they were ready to head into the Alps to go skiing at any moment. This contrast opened my eyes to the regional differences that exist within France. Although it is a relatively small country compared to the U.S., there are still significant cultural differences as you travel around from place to place. 


Similar to the Swiss influence that persisted in Annecy, when visiting Grenoble I noticed a significant Italian influence stemming from the city’s close proximity to the Italian border. A majority of the restaurants in this area had an Italian influence. Many of the menu items consisted of pasta dishes and pizzas that were traditional to Italy but took on somewhat of a French twist. I have found it fascinating to see how the geography of a city can influence the culture. The countries bordering a city, or the geographical features surrounding the city have a much larger impact on the fashion, food, and overall lifestyle of a place than I had initially realized. Grenoble was a beautiful mix of mountains, hills and rivers, all wrapped into a small city. 


The last French city I have been able to visit so far is the city we think of when we think of France, Paris. With the more touristic nature of Paris, I would say the French stereotypes that we hold in America would be most applicable here out of all the cities I’ve visited in France. That being said, Paris definitely earns its title as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Paris takes the elegant dress code to another level. I ended up in Paris during fashion week, and most people on the streets were dressed to impress. Paris is a unique city such that it has monuments unlike any other. The Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles & the Louvre are as beautiful as you would imagine. I was also shocked to find the little sister of the Statue of Liberty (a gift from America) among some of the notable sites to see. I am definitely looking forward to exploring more of France throughout the semester, and especially expanding my exploration of Lyon!

Roseanne Lacy is studying Psychology and French at Salve with minors in Neuroscience and Applied Behavior Analysis. She is studying abroad at the Catholic University of Lyon in France to further expand her knowledge of the French language and French culture as a part of our French program here at Salve. 

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