August 28, 2006

The Student Travel Association’s Guide to France, Part Un

So, you’ve decided to visit France, the crown jewel of North Central Western Europe! Congratulations! You are joining in a proud tradition of travel abroad by lazy, affluent, college-aged Americans. Hopefully, this journey will expand your horizons, show you new possibilities, and teach you to effectively mask your disdain for the customs of other peoples. This helpful pamphlet will provide all the information you need to make your trip to the land of second-hand smoke and unpasteurized cheese all the more bearable!

Some Items to Pack

Before setting off on your trip, it’s important to pack the proper items. Here are some must-haves that you will find useful while visiting France.

A Money Pouch

Let’s be honest with ourselves: whether from a lack of hygiene or some natural oil only they exude, the French have sticky fingers. They are notoriously adept at separating a tourist and his money, be it through slight of hand, clever scam, or a rusty knife to the gut. A money belt, worn around the waist, solves this problem nicely, providing a more difficult target for would-be pickpockets as well as a way to cushion the force of a blade jammed into your soft, quivering belly. Keeping paper money in the pouch also provides an acceptable staunch for the blood that will invariably gush from said knife-wound, giving you the precious time you need to crawl to one of France’s eight serviceable hospitals.

A Camera

It’s happened time and time again: after being stabbed in the gut by a street person, a student will, in the course of dragging themselves down the filthy sidewalk with their forearms, chance upon one of France’s many impressive monuments or tourist spots, only to find themselves without a camera. A camera is an absolute must-have for any trip overseas. Your own capacity to form memories will likely be failing due to blood loss, while mechanical ones will survive for years to come. If you can afford one, a digital camera is a nice luxury, allowing you to review your photos on the spot. If that’s out of your price range, try simply staring at people and things that you want to remember for long periods without blinking. If it helps, put your hands to your head and chant “Remember!” to yourself through grit teeth.

A French-English Dictionary

While you would expect most foreigners to applaud an American’s sincere attempts at communication, many are actually offended when faced with a tourist slowly and emphatically asking “WHERE...IS...THE…CRAPPER?” The French will appreciate nothing more than your effort to converse with them on their own level. Rather than screeching or hurling feces however, try translating what you want to say from a handy pocket dictionary. Your stammering, page-turning, and prolonged pauses will only prove to them how hard you are really trying. Luckily, the French language is especially forgiving to tourists, in that a word’s meaning is affected by neither pronunciation nor proper conjugation.

Non-Carbonated Water

As many tourists find out the hard way, it is a literal impossibility to acquire non-carbonated water in France. The reason is a poorly-understood subterranean phenomenon that causes all ground water in the area to become infused with Carbon Dioxide gas. To avoid subsisting entirely on what scientists have dubbed “Nature’s shitty soda,” we recommend you check one or two bags filled with water bottles at the airport. If possible, fill a carry-on bag with water for the flight as well. And remember: if airport security tries to take away your precious, life-giving water, run like hell and never stop screaming.

That Rapier American Wit

The French love Jerry Lewis, who was a well-known American comedian. As you might assume, they will also appreciate your “in-your-face” brand of American street humor. Before leaving, be sure to brush up on your best barbs and one liners regarding American stereotypes concerning the French. By focusing your comedy on them and their habits, you will let those you encounter know that you are deeply knowledgeable about their country and people. Be sure to mention:

--Their eating of frogs
--Their similarity to frogs
--Their ridiculous striped shirts and berets
--Their love of Jerry Lewis
--Their impotence in war
--Their pervasive stink
--Their inexplicable hostility towards Americans

Next: A Tasteful and Useful Guide to French Culture, Customs, and Cuisine!

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