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France isn't all that different from U.S.

July 22, 2008|By ANAIS BEUROIS / Pulse Correspondent

My name is Anais (pronounced on-uh-EES). I'm 19 and I study at the French School of Journalism and Communication, a special high school based in Paris.

To improve my English and to discover how American companies work, I came to America and worked as a volunteer in the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

For one month, I have lived in Hagerstown with Amy and Barry Newlin and their daughters, Sally, 17, and Marilyn, 14. They are a very nice host family. They seem very close.

Actually, they live as French families live, but there are some differences with my own family. For example, Sally and Marilyn have a list of something to do to help their parents. In France, we don't use a list to know what we have to do. Mostly, mothers cook, clean and tidy up. So, this article aims to show a foreign point of view on your country.

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We can think that people who love the same actors, like Brad Pitt (who doesn't like Brad Pitt?), will have the same culture, but it's not necessarily true. For example, American people are patriotic. Everyone has a flag in front of their home. Not in France. The French show their flag only when their national soccer or rugby team wins a championship - which is not often.

Everything in the United States is bigger than in France. For example: soda cups, streets, T-shirts and cars. But not the size of feet. My European shoe size is 37, but my American size is 7. My feet haven't changed size, but they seem smaller.

Even if these differences are important, I wasn't so surprised when I discovered the United States for the first time. It looks like in the movies. Hagerstown isn't Wisteria Lane (the neighborhood of "Desperate Housewives") but there are the same kinds of houses, streets, etc.

I hope American students don't think that France is like the movie "Moulin Rouge" with Nicole Kidman. I know that some Parisians are extroverted, but not everyone. Not everyone acts like the characters in "Moulin Rouge."

French teenagers stay busy with a lot of different activities. They enjoy practicing sports with their friends: European football (Americans call it soccer), tennis, volleyball, basketball, swimming and bowling. In the United States, many adults go bowling, but French people think bowling is a teenager's activity. If you meet some adults at a bowling alley in France, it's because they brought their teenagers.

French teenagers love shopping with their friends. And when they are between 18 and 25 years old, they like dancing in clubs and drinking a cocktail or a beer in a pub or café. Eighteen is the age when you can drive a car in France; teenagers can start to go away without asking their parents.

During this month, I was lucky to visit Baltimore (Inner Harbor, Lexington Market, the Edgar Allan Poe house), Washington, D.C. (the National Mall, Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the Washington Monument ), Frederick and College Park, Md. We went to a Weird Al Yankovic concert, too. He is unknown in France, so I was so surprised to see him.

My host family and the university staff were very nice to drive me to places. I was amazed on the highway that you don't have automatic monitors. In France, everywhere, we have some machines that monitor cars' speed. If we drive too fast, they send automatically a message to a police station.

Although I love discovering other countries like the United States, I love when people discover my country. So, if you want to see a beautiful, old-fashioned nation, come and enjoy France.

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