As the semester comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on the positives and the negatives of life in Aix-en-Provence, France. I shall start by listing the negatives:
1.       There’s dog poop everywhere. This is an issue because no one wants dog poop all over the bottom of his or her shoes. Some days, it feels like I’m walking through an obstacle course, trying to dodge all of the droppings. Near the beginning of December, I started to notice fewer droppings; however, they still exist!

2.       The restaurants and cafés are expensive. This fact hindered me from eating at restaurants every day. As a student without a job, I was forced to manage money wisely. Thus, most days I opted for Crêpes-à-GoGo or Pizza Capris instead of Zinc d’Hugo. This is a negative aspect because I would have liked to experience more authentic French food; however, the expensive cost prohibited this experience.

3.       There are a lot of tourists. As I learned rather quickly during my first week in Aix, the tourists get old quickly. This is an issue when trying to walk to class, to meet friends, or to the market because the tourists have no consideration for the people that end up behind them as they walk abnormally slow and they are often rude.

4.       I have no car. This poses a problem if I want to travel. Train fare is expensive, thus it’s a wiser choice to use a car when traveling to other cities within and outside of France. Renting a car is an option; however, it’s also pricey. Sometimes, though, it’s cheaper to rent a car than to take the train.

5.       The French are wasteful. In some ways, the French are very resourceful and hardly wasteful such as with water and electricity; however, when it comes to environmental protection, the French are behind. In America, I recycle almost everything. France is not the same. It took over 3 months for me to get used to throwing everything in the trash. And even then, I still wince when I have to dispose of plastic bottles. I noticed that on the outskirts of town, there are recycling bins; however, in the city center and at my host mom’s house…these bins are non-existent.
6.       There are zero free public restrooms. This is a real problem in Aix because it forces people to pee on the street, which creates a foul odor and awkward moments when a bystander passes by an individual who is peeing.

The positives:

1.       Life is more relaxed. The atmosphere in Aix is completely different than the atmosphere in my home town in the states because (in general) everyone is more relaxed and less stressed. It seems that the French enjoy taking time to relax in all aspects of their lives. For example, a typical lunch break at school or work lasts from 12:00-2:00.

2.       The fruit and vegetables are always fresh. The French value the term, “locally grown,” thus the fruit and vegetables are always in season and usually locally grown.

3.       Aix has great open marchés. These markets are great for people shopping on a budget. They offer a variety of goods from scarves to dresses to books to antiques to food for decent prices. Also, the market is a great place for bargaining with vendors.

4.       Aix is surrounded with old buildings. It’s impossible to walk throughout Aix and not pass an old building. In fact, all of my courses were held in former cathedrals. America is such a young country that it’s easy for me to enjoy the beauty of the old buildings in Aix because I’m not used to them.

5.       The water is delicious. The water in Aix has a different taste than the water in the states. I attribute this to the fact that the water in Aix has fewer chemicals than the water in the states.

6.       Aix is beautiful, especially during Christmas time. Aix goes all out during the winter holiday. There are Christmas lights on nearly every street, shop, and fountain. Also, American Christmas music is played over speakers on the Cours Mirabeau, the most popular street in Aix. I’m not exactly 100% certain as to the reason the music is American, but it certainly gives a very homey and quaint atmosphere nonetheless. During the winter season, there are also the Christmas market & le marché de 13 desserts. I particularly enjoyed le marché de 13 desserts because, well let’s be honest, it consists of at least 13 different types of desserts! Le marché de 13 desserts is the best place to buy authentic and homemade macaroons.

7.       The dogs are extremely loyal. Even though owners don’t pick up after their dog, at least they train it. In America, in general, dogs are always on a leash (if they aren’t on a leash, they run away), they bark non-stop, and they attack people and other pets/animals. In France, dogs are rarely seen on leashes (they never run away), they never bark, and they are extremely friendly and laid back.

8.       It’s easy and safe to walk everywhere. Quite literally, I walk everywhere: to and from school, to and from the English Bubble, to and from Parc Jordan, to and from the bus stop, to and from bar street…etc…I walk uphill and downhill more than twice a day, so I’m happy to note that my calves, abs, and butt are in great shape. I only hope I can keep this up when I return to the states, where I am forced to drive everywhere.

Clearly there are more positives than negatives, which act as proof that I should live permanently in France someday. Here's to hoping for the future!

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