France – Culture and History Afloat
In times past, towns, villages and cities were founded by the water, on rivers and on the hills next to rivers. For reasons of trade and communication, and defence. So travelling along the waterways not only takes you straight through the unspoilt countryside, it also takes you straight into the heart of French culture and history. Forget about being bussed around or chivvied by tour guides – on your boat, you’ve got the ringside seat!
The French Language
French children – like most other Europeans – are taught English at school. (Even many English people try to learn a ‘foreign’ language) So many people you’ll come into contact with will have basic, school-level, spoken English. They’ll probably understand you and what you want. Not only that, but most people are friendly and approachable and will want to help you, a guest in their country. Naturally, some won’t be – Parisians are always given as examples of this, but our own experience is pretty positive there too. That’s the same the whole world over – but there is no ‘prejudice’ against English speakers, or nationalities. They might not agree with American foreign policy, or like McDonalds (but there are 2,000 McDonalds in France alone) but they won’t hold you personally responsible!
France is an historic and culturally rich nation, proud of its heritage and its language. Making even the slightest effort to learn and speak a bit of French is much appreciated. Considering that at least 50% of English is just about the same as French, it’s not too difficult to master the basics.
The same goes for manners (“la politesse”), which is important too and includes shaking hands when meeting practically anyone (including friends), cheek kissing (each side) and saying ‘bonjour’ on entering a shop or even a post-office.