I am a big fan of ritual. Simple or complex, I believe they are good for keeping us grounded in something bigger than ourselves. I have mini rituals I do every day, but when I get to France, I crash right into a whole different set of them.
When arriving in a different country, there is, as expected, a different culture. As such, there is of course a different set of rituals. Every year when I return, I have to re-educate myself, so I don’t stick out like a sore thumb. One of the most obvious differences is the increased level of general formality. You just don’t barge into a shop and demand what you want. You must say hello to the shopkeeper and all the other patrons waiting in line for their baguette. And as every other person arrives in line, they also say hello to everyone, “bonjour messieurs-dames”, and all politely respond. It’s a lot of chatter for a group of strangers, but it is a rather pleasant custom. It makes everyone feel seen and that they matter.
Then there is the ritual of kissing. It’s three kisses on the cheek here in the south of France, two in other parts. I forget and start to back out on the second only to find a strange dance occurring to try to get that third kiss in without looking like I made a misstep. And all of this kissing happens with pretty much everyone you know, even if you just saw them a few minutes earlier. You kiss when you bump into each other at the grocery store or the patisserie. Or after you’ve just had your three kisses with the farmer down the way, your neighbour shows up to buy produce, and you go kissing again. You kiss the delightfully chatty old man who walks his dogs every morning up the road (whose name I have never learned, I am la Canadienne to him, which suits me fine). There is quite a lot of time spent kissing.
I also have many first week rituals I have developed over the past decade, but this year I decided to change it up. I didn’t go to market simply to go, only if I needed to. I adjusted my annual first visit to Sault and some of my first rides. It was an experiment and I’m not sure if I liked it. While the world didn’t spin off its axis as a result, and it’s good to mix things up, I think I missed some of those rituals. Tant pis, I can do them next week!