Welcome our guest writer, Porter Scott! It was as a student of painting and photography that Porter Scott first began his love affair with Paris. Determined to continue the romance, Porter tried several careers before finding his true niche – renovating and managing furnished rental properties. Now, with over 30 renovations to his credit and an impressive portfolio of rental properties right in the heart of Paris, it should come as no surprise that Porter has developed some clever tactics for dealing with the quirks, foibles and bureaucracy an American will encounter when living in France.
Dig right into his story and write a comment below. He will understand if you only say: “Hi ya’ll”
While other kids from the East and West Coasts were studying calculus in grade school, I was learning the finer points of how to handle a pick and shovel in the outback of Alabama (not to say that I did not get a good education, nevertheless). I took great pride in my ability to wield a pick as well as any man out there, letting the pick do the work while my back simply gave the necessary thrust and guidance.
Post-hole Digging: Learning the Basics
Another one of the outdoor handyman skills I learned as a boy was how to use a post-hole digger in order to build fences and string barbed wire. When you had a lot of holes to dig, you rented a special, heavy-duty machine, with a huge augur bit, that took two people to handle and hold while it screwed into the ground and dug a nice clean, deep hole. Once dug, all that was left to do was to insert your post and give it a few wallops with a mallet to secure.
Getting hold of the right tool for the job …
On a lesser scale, when you only have a few post holes to dig here and there, you use a manual post-hole digger, which only needs one person to get the job done. For the life of me, I have not been able to find one of these manual contraptions in France in the 30 plus years I have been living here. Finally, a few years back, I decided to ask my mother’s new husband at the time, who was then 81 years old (but spry as could be), to bring me a post- hole digger in his luggage the next time he came over to France. Being an engineer, I knew that he would rise to the challenge.
So how does one go about getting a post-hole digger into an airplane these days?
Well, first of all, I decided that I did not need the long wooden handles. Those can be found, or made, here in France. That left the metal base mechanism which consists of two narrow, curved shovel-like elements facing one another with a hinge joining them. It may set off the metal detectors in the airplane, but I did not foresee my father-in-law being taken into custody as the first post-hole digger terrorist. In fact, my stepfather not only rose to the challenge, he managed to bring the post-hole digger in its entirety…handles and all!
The days when someone like my own father (back in the 1980’s) could carry in his luggage all kinds of garden tools and other familiar items (including some sapling trees) are probably long gone. To this day, I have a well-worn double-edged swing blade for cutting grass that is probably the only one in the entire country of France.
Every time we get it out to cut weeds and such, the country neighbors start gawking at those crazy Americans…flailing there arms about us just doin’ things differently. We are also probably among the few people in France who have two dogwood trees (native to the southern United States) thriving in our yard, thanks to my father’s desire to put down American roots in France.
Missing the bare necessities…
There are numerous familiar items that Americans have a hard time finding or cannot find when they move to France, or any other country for that matter. For instance, every time I go back to the USA, I stock up on men’s mid-calf dark socks because I cannot find the quality that I like in France, not to mention the outrageous prices that the French charge for what they think are quality men’s socks. Good quality permanent press shirts are also hard to come by in France. For some reason, the French feel that 100% cotton shirts are the only shirts that are worth buying, so there are almost no comparable permanent press alternatives. I just wonder who does the ironing for these guys… My wife marvels at the space taken up by all of the socks (winter, summer, and heavy sports socks separated into three categories) that I have in my dresser, or rather, she complains about not having enough space for her clothing. I have still to show her the ten-year-stock of dental floss that I have accumulated (but fortunately, it doesn’t take up much space).
Yes, having the best of both worlds, as an American living in France, is an impossible dream; but with foresight, you can at least maintain a stock of imported familiar items that make you feel a little closer to home. Unfortunately, you cannot import many of the less tangible things that you cherish as an American: fundamental values, flexible thinking, entrepreneurial concepts, a different understanding of freedom…
Thankfully, a little American dental floss can go a long way in comforting you. No matter where you are in the world, with just a bit of thin, wax-coated string, you can maintain at least one American standard that you are accustomed to: good dental hygiene.
Debbie’s comments: Thanks to Porter for sharing some of the differences between the U.S. and France, from the ground up to those white, pearly teeth born and raised in Alabama. No worries. We will continue sharing the U.S. dental floss with Porter if he needs any. Uh, I don’t mean actually sharing our used dental floss. We will sell it to him, or lend it. Or, would we need an international trade agreement? I can see already that we may need to have a meeting in Switzerland on neutral grounds; do the Swiss use dental floss? Now, how can I get myself out of this fiasco? Anybody know where I can find a good post-hole digger, so I can dig a hole big enough for me to crawl inside and hide?
Just so you will know, I won’t see you here at A French Opportunity next week. I’m taking a few days off. Be safe and enjoy! Thanks for comin’ around to visit us. Take a look here for the holes that Jim dug in Florida coral rock with chips flyin’ … Kindle has a great sale going on, starting at $5.99. Grab it while you can.