Sunday, April 01, 2007


My youngest child, Collin Matthew, is a 16-year-old sophomore at Providence High School. He spent the last week in and around La Garenne-Colombe, France, just outside of Paris, as part of the Clarksville Sister Cities exchange program. It was his first time abroad. While in France, Collin stayed with a French teenager and his family. Upon his arrival home, Collin graciously agreed to answer some questions for the readers of CoffeeSpoons:

CoffeeSpoons: What was your favorite experience in France?

Collin: My favorite experience was interacting with the people. I enjoyed seeing how the French culture is, compared with American culture. It was really very interesting.

CoffeeSpoons: What were some other highlights of your trip?

Collin: I loved seeing the Eiffel Tower, L'Arc De Triomphe, and all of the famous historical sites of France. Also, going to the Beaches of Normandy was really special.

CoffeeSpoons: What, if anything, surprised you about France or its people?

Collin: Their eating habits were really different than ours. Whereas in America we tend to snack a lot, they tend to pretty much stick with eating three meals, but they really eat a lot in those meals.

CoffeeSpoons: What other differences did you observe between the French culture and ours?

Collin: They seemed to be a lot more to themselves out in public. They are a little quieter. They used public transportation a whole lot more than we do. I also noticed that people take their dogs everywhere.

CoffeeSpoons: I've heard that the French can sometimes be rude to American tourists. Did you find that to be the case?

Collin: Not really.....They were very hospitable to me--very giving. Our hosts were very thoughtful, and they wanted us to see everything. There were a few incidents when we encountered rudeness, but I'm sure that would be the same anywhere you would go.

CoffeeSpoons: What did you miss most about home while you were there?

Collin: My family...My friends...People speaking English on a regular basis.

CoffeeSpoons: What was the food like?

Collin: The food was different. One time, we were visiting a school and we had lunch there. They served us a large piece of fruit--something like a pear--that was cut in half and had a big piece of sausage stuck in the middle of it. I asked one of the French kids what it was, but he didn't know. That was strange...but I ate it.
It was pretty good. Their McDonald's and Pizza Hut were better than ours, tasting-wise. They had the same menu items, but they just seemed to taste better. I will note that the pizza had a French cheese, in the center of the pizza, that was very good. I also noted that they ate their meals in courses. We had bread first, and then the main course, with whatever sides they were having. Then they had cheese and yogurt, followed by dessert. They had really good food.

CoffeeSpoons: I've heard that there's less obesity in France than in the United States. Did you find that to be the case?

Collin: I didn't see as many overweight people there. And that really doesn't surprise me. With the amount of walking that we did, I can imagine the amount of exercise that the average Parisian gets in a given day. I also saw many people riding bikes. Every morning, I had to walk to our group's meeting place. I think that walking and exercise are a big part of the culture there.

CoffeeSpoons: Did you run into any wild women in France?

Collin: [Pause...coy smile...] Uh...I'm not sure if I would say wild...The women were definitely intriguing. They were very nice and interested in America.

CoffeeSpoons: Would you like to go back to France sometime?

Collin: Definitely! Going to France was one of the best experiences of my life. They family with whom I stayed was wonderful. They said that they would like to have our whole family come back to visit them.


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