We are now back in France after 16 years living abroad! We see many things with a different eye, especially with children who were born in Sydney and have never lived in France ever! They now attend the local public school, although we once considered a bilingual Montessori school for the younger one.
What helped though, is that the kids have been attending French schools outside of France for the last six year: in Sydney, Zurich and Oslo.
Also we didn’t end up in a random place in France. We picked a pretty place near the international Sophia Antipolis technopolis, so inhabitants are pretty open minded, come from many other countries and are fairly well educated.
Despite that fact, the boys are noticing several things that wouldn’t come to mind of the locals here in South of France.
OMG it’s raining!
It doesn’t rain often here, but when it does, what a panic! Everyone drives the kids to school creating such traffic jam that you arrive quicker on foot.
The kids said :
- ” wow other kids are scared of the rain!”
- ” no one would play with me in the rain at recess!”
- ” they just run in panic and look for shelter whereas I was just walking slowly, no problem!”
Fact is, on the Riviera, locals don’t pay attention to weather forecast. With 300 days on sun in a year, they just assume that every day is dry, so when rain comes, they just discover it on their doorstep and it’s too late.
They also don’t have such things as “regndress” that lets kids jump up and down in muddy puddles while keeping them dry!
No school on Wednesdays ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What a pain in the neck for working parents. Primary school is off all day and middle school is off in the afternoon. So that’s where you cram all your extra curriculum activities like sports, music, etc…
The beautiful thing here is the choice activities due to the amazing and consistent weather. All you need is a soccer mum, to drive them around…
What a blessing for parents who no longer need to prepare lunch boxes in the morning. For kids, it’s different. They discover different food, some they like, some they don’t. Although it’s fun for them to try and guess what will be served each day and report back to me what they had at the end of the day.
The local schools do their best to offer organic food, diverse meals (tacos, fried spring rolls, even sushis!). They some time have french fries or chicken nuggets. I don’t ever remember having fried stuff at my cantine in Paris 🙁 Middle school also offers a salad bar as a way to reduce wastage fro teenagers.
It also makes the lunch break much longer to they finish at 4.30 pm instead of 2.45 pm in Oslo. This art-de-vivre will then explain the typical French work hours. The French are used from the younger age to taking a 2 hour break and eat out, while other cultures will just have a sandwich at their desk but leave much earlier in the afternoon. Read what Norwegians have for lunch.
The choice of activities
Here we are quite blessed as the boys can play golf and go sailing ALL YEAR ROUND! As for me, I’ve resumed tennis and found a Zumba class. Frankly, after dropping off both kids, I’ve made 7,000 steps already!
Our small town also offers martial arts, music and the town next door offers a chess club.
In winter they could go skiing on a day trip or we can go up as a family for the week-end. This location is pretty unique.
Teachers are more strict
” Teachers scream and tell you off!” that’s what the kids reported to me. Fact is French teachers don’t act as if each child is unique like in the Nordics. And in the French public system, there a way too many pupils in a class to pay special attention to each of them.
31 kids in my younger son’s class. His primary school is the biggest one in the whole district (département) with almost 500 children between 6 and 10 years old. That was the size of the entire French school in Oslo and Zurich including kids from kindergaden up to high school!
There is nothing to play with/on at recess
Last year, the French School in Oslo built a whole playing and climbing field in the middle of the courtyard with slides and monkey bars.
Here, in public schools in France, you have a couple of trees and benches. That’s all.
Parents are not allowed in the school
You just stay at the gate. At primary school, you only see the teacher when you come after school and pick up the kids, at the gate. It was quite hard the first few days, but you get used to it. Then there is one meeting to meet the teacher and see what the classroom looks like.
In Oslo parents could wait in the courtyard, stay there for the kids to play and chat with other parents.
My son calls his middle school “the prison”. The gates are very impressive as they implemented turnpikes that only let one child in or out at a time with a badge system. What stress when he misplaces his badge! Same, one meeting to see all teachers and the classroom.
And you, what do you find brow raising in the French school system? Anything ugly?