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It's not all baguettes and pain au chocolat...

The Huang family newsletter


One of the fun things about moving to a different country is just observing all the small and funny cultural differences. So (for those of you who haven’t already traveled this road before us), here are a few quirks of French life that we thought you might enjoy!

Dumpsters and recycling

There are some dumpster bins just outside our apartment building. Somewhat counterintuitively, the garbage bins are coloured green, and the single-stream recycling bins are yellow. On the lid of the green garbage bins are these words:
It means “Glass forbidden.” At first this didn’t strike us as too unusual, for surely glass should go into the yellow recycling bins. But alas, when one checks the yellow bins, you see the same thing!
So if glass doesn’t go into trash, and it doesn’t go into recycling – where does it go?
In fact, glass does get recycled here, but only in special bins that are very selectively placed throughout the town. The bins are large and are usually placed near parking lots or big stores, but sometimes it can be hard to find them, and they’re not nearly as ubiquitous as the aforementioned green and yellow bins. So, maybe once a month or so, we put all our empty glass jars and bottles into a shopping bag and walk 100 metres or so to the closest glass-only deposit bin. It’s supreme fun for Nolan, because he gets to throw glass into the receptacle and listen to the glass crash and crack inside.

Dog poop


It’s hard not to notice all the dog poop. Plenty of French people own dogs, and there are, occasionally, tiny dog parks where dogs can go relieve themselves and the owners aren’t expected to pick up the mess.
Here, I do what I want!
But for the most part, the sidewalks are littered with dog poop, and it’s the rare French person who stops to pick up the poop and put it in the trash. This is despite signs asking dog owners to in fact do just that.
That's enough!!! A bit of respect, please pick up after your dog.
We recently had a French lesson where we discussed superstition and luck. Some North American superstitions translate well into French: horseshoes and four-leaf clovers are good luck; breaking mirrors and opening umbrellas indoors are bad luck.

But then our teacher told us that stepping in dog poop in France was a sign of good luck – though, she was quick to add, you have to do it unintentionally. To step in it intentionally negates the luck.

anDrew was so incredulous that he thought the teacher was pulling his leg. He asked her to repeat it, and then he asked her if it was true.

What do you mean, true? she said.

I mean, do French people really think this?

She looked confused.

I mean, I suppose it depends, she said. Are you actually superstitious? Do you believe in luck?

In trying to distinguish between what was believed versus what was cultural versus what was true, anDrew quickly found his fund of French to be rapidly depleted, so he simply said (as is often said when the French in his head runs out), “Laisse tomber.”

La médecine douce


During Kimberley’s recent maternity hospital stay, she, as many women do, had painful uterine contractions during the initial days of breastfeeding. When she asked the midwife for some pain medication, the midwife answered:

Oh, but have you taken your homeopathy medications?
In fact, Kim had taken all three: one for pain, one for infection, and one for scarring. Not  unsurprisingly (to us), they seemed a bit ineffective.
This isn’t to say we’re categorically against complementary medicine. We’ve both grown up in Asian households and have seen our fair share of chiropractors and acupuncturists. 
Solène even received some neonatal osteopathy. (For our American osteopathic physician friends, osteopathy is rather different in France than in the US.)
Kimberley also just finished taking various herbal Chinese medicines for the better part of a month, as shown here.
But frankly, we are both Western-trained allopathic physicians. From our perspective in comparing the various types of complementary and alternative medicine, homeopathy seems, at best, rather silly. Certainly in North America it would be an anathema to offer homeopathy as a substitute (or even as a legitimate complement) to standard medicine in a hospital setting.

But the French midwives were insistent. Don’t forget to take les médicaments homéopathiques, they chided her daily.
We tried to remind ourselves (as is so often repeated by our school’s director), “It’s not weird in France…it’s just different.” But even this seemed a little more than different: this seemed like just bad medicine.

It took a several phones calls and a plea to some other nurses before Kim finally got some Tramadol.

And now...for some family pictures!

Nolan plays with his new little sister Solène.
Kimberley makes her return to French class...and Solène makes her debut!
We've been happy to welcome Kimberley's mother for the past several weeks for Kimberley's 坐月子. But we did break the confinement for a day trip to Annecy.
     
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anDrew
: docdrew@gmail.com

Kimberley: kimboley@gmail.com
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This newsletter is about Andrew, Kimberley, Nolan and Solène Huang: their journey from the US to Canada to France and, ultimately, to Bongolo Hospital in Gabon, West Africa, with the Post-Residency Program of Samaritan's Purse (World Medical Mission).

The views and opinions expressed here are solely ours, and they do not necessarily represent those of Samaritan's Purse or World Medical Mission.

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