No Cheese in China! Things I Will and Won’t Miss in the Middle Kingdom

No Cheese in China!                                Things I Will and Won’t Miss in the Middle Kingdom

The communist party took over mainland China in 1949.  February 1972, I was 9 years old and President Nixon became the first president to visit the PRC, People’s Republic of China, ending 25 years of no communication or diplomatic ties between the two countries.  His visit also allowed the American public to view images of China for the first time in over two decades.  Other than whatever knowledge a 9-year-old would get in school, Nixon’s visit sparked my interest in the “Middle Kingdom”.  It was finally in 1978, under Deng Xiaoping, that China opened its borders to foreign visitors.  I remember thinking it would be cool to see/walk the Great Wall of China.  The next time I remember hearing/seeing big news from China was June 1989 and the Tank Man in Tiananmen Square.






The Tiananmen Square incident recently marked its 30th anniversary.  It was all over Facebook, but I never saw or heard about it on any Chinese social media.  Why? I’m not going to get into politics here, but one reason is Social Media in China is government controlled… Facebook, no Instagram, no Google, not even Pinterest UNLESS you access the internet using a VPN (a virtual private network).  Known as the Great Firewall of China, the PRC has even been known to block VPN’s when they feel it necessary.  One thing I won’t miss when I leave China is having to log onto a VPN!

I’m starting off with a negative because as I am writing this, I am multi-tasking.  I’m blogging while attempting to use the internet.  I say attempting because my VPN continues to drop, my Wi-Fi is almost nonexistent, and it’s frustrating………

Garlic and Rice Vinegar for Dumplings


Ah, China, 中国, Zhōngguó, the Middle Kingdom, land of 1.4 billion, the place you hate to love and love to hate, the place I have called home for 4 years.  Before arriving, my thoughts/images of China were The Great Wall, a funny language made up of stick pictures instead of letters, dumplings, eating with chopsticks, cheap merchandise, technology, General Tso’s chicken, rice, kung fu, tai chi, and pandas, to name a few.  I knew its history/culture was deep in tradition.  What I didn’t realize was just how deep and important these cultural traditions were in everyday life.  After arriving, I quickly learned I wasn’t in Kansas anymore and there’s no cheese in China.  What I mean is, China is very “Eastern”, unless you are in one of the bigger/popular cities, you will be hard pressed to find “Western” products/amenities or English language.   What you will discover is an amazing culture, kind people and a beautiful country.

A Small Round Table Dinner

One thing I will miss are the “round table” dinners.  When a group goes out to eat, they are seated around a large or ginormous, depending on the number, round table with a rotating top.  When everyone is seated, dishes of amazing food start appearing.  A little side note on tradition, no one sits until the host has arrived.  Often, being a foreigner, I was the “guest of honor” and there was a certain position at the table where I had to sit.  This position would be the center of the table facing east or facing the entrance to the room.  Also, it is considered unlucky to start eating until there are a certain number of dishes on the table.  These feasts are amazing and will be missed.  One thing I won’t miss at these dinners are the chicken feet, various innards of animals, dishes of grubs/bugs eaten like peanuts and tofu. I’ve also discovered, I really like to eat with 筷子 kuàizi or chopsticks.

Chicken Feet

I’m not sure I will be able to eat Chinese food in America when I return.  Chinese food in China is nothing like what we know.  They have an amazing way with seasonings and sauces that I only hope to be able to duplicate in a few dishes.  Other than missing the food in general, I am going to miss 面条 miàntiáo or noodles, but more specifically 兰州拉面 Lánzhōu lāmiàn.  I love almost all the noodle dishes in China, but I will miss the Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles the most.  I’m not sure I will be able to master hand pulling, but I do have a pretty good idea how to reproduce the broth. Which reminds me, Chinese soup spoons are the best.  With the little hooked end, they don’t slip into the soup bowl.  I need to bring some back with me.

My Noodle Guy


My Favorite Noodles










Speaking of food, which by the way is incredibly cheap and delicious…..Chinese home delivery.  There really is no reason to cook if you don’t want to. Simply pull up one of these apps you have installed on your phone;  美团外买 měi tuán wài mǎi or beautiful food buy outside and éle me饿了么 or are you hungry?.  Then choose from hundreds (seriously even in my small town) of restaurants, pick your dish(es) and in 30 minutes your food arrives and remember “no tipping”.  I will miss that too.  I did feel bad that one time I didn’t realize the elevators in my building weren’t working and I live on the 24th floor.  I ordered a 肉夹馍 ròu jiā mó or a Chinese hamburger, which really translates to meat folder.  It is shredded meat, often mutton or pork stuffed in a pita-like bread with hot peppers.  This I will miss but think I can make it at home.  I often order 2, because at a buck each they make a nice breakfast sandwich when you add an egg.  So, back to the day, my elevators were not working and I ordered $3.00 worth of food (2 Chinese hamburgers and a water).  The delivery guy knocked on my door, out of breath and in a complete sweat.  He had come up 24 floors or 48 flights to bring me my food.  I felt bad and he refused a tip.  I am going to miss the convenience and low cost of Chinese home delivery.

肉夹馍 ròu jiā mó

One of the first things I recommend someone coming to China do is download 微信 Wēixìn (pronounced like we-she) or WeChat.  China’s answer to Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Paypal (but better) social media app rolled into one.  Named by Forbes as one of the most powerful apps in the world.  Post pictures, links, message or call your friends and so much more.  What I love best, is it is linked to your bank account and is used to pay for everything everywhere.  Just scan a QR code at the supermarket, restaurant, taxicab, massage shop, noodle shop, post office, Taobao, wài mǎi, even the little old lady on the street selling mandarins from a wagon can be paid by WeChat.  Most everyone in China pays for goods and services with WeChat.  I rarely see cash or credit cards being used, although I always carry both.  I just haven’t quite got comfortable with carrying no cash.  Funny story….I was at China Post shipping one of many boxes back to the states.  There are a few things at the post office for which you must use cash.  The Chinese gentleman in front of me needed 20-yuan cash or a little less than $3.  He spoke to my friend Alice who I took along as my translator.  He asked her if I had 20 yuan (I did) because foreigners always carry cash.  He would pay me back by WeChat.  I handed over a 20 and he scanned my QR code and 20 yuan appeared in my WeChat wallet.  China, I will miss the convenience of WeChat.



My WeChat QR Code

Ok, we have Amazon and a few others in the states, but nothing can compare to Taobao, China’s online shopping website.  From crazy to quirky and everything in between, if it exists in the world you can buy it on Taobao and usually pretty cheap…….“made in China” after all.  You’re a farmer and need a castrating tool….Taobao!  Enjoy eating goat brains…Taobao!  Need a live peacock…Taobao!  Missing cheese, because there’s no cheese in China?  Taobao!  Although I have learned not to purchase cheese on Taobao in warm weather, it comes packed in dry ice and styrofoam, but by the time it arrives in my rural village, it’s a melted lump.  Other than food and a few necessities, I buy/have bought most everything on Taobao, including toilet paper, mustard (no mustard in China either), coffee, small appliances, sheets, Beefeaters gin, my cell phone, etc. You get the picture.  Taobao you will be missed.

Castrating Tool
Goat Brains





Since I mentioned toilet paper, no matter how healthy or so-called natural it is to poop while squatting, I don’t think I will miss the beloved “squatty potty”.  That and the fact that you almost always need to have your own TP or tissue.  Picture this…..there you are in a squat, reaching for TP, none is provided and you forgot to get yours out. Bad knees, balancing a squat, trying to keep your pant legs and crotch out of the way while you look in your purse for tissue…..NOT FUN!   I understand why so many people wear pants cropped at or above the ankles and they are tight to their legs. Unless you have been squatting your entire life, when you’re 50 something with bad knees and then a broken back, squatting isn’t the easiest way to go, haha.  I can and I have for 5 months when I lived in Hunan Province, but if I’m honest I really won’t miss it.

Squatty Potty,  I chose one of the worst ones I had.  This on an overnight train.  Imagine using this on a moving rickety train.

Most everyone has heard stories of pollution in China.  Until you have experienced an AQI (air quality index) of over 400 and can’t see the building behind you, you have no idea what air pollution is.  In northern China, pollution is usually the worst during the winter months.  This is because in some areas, mainly rural/countryside, coal is still burned for heating purposes. That along with multitudes of factories, car emissions and even the occasional sandstorm blowing through from the Gobi Desert contribute to the pollution problem.  I usually wear a mask if the AQI goes above 150, which is often in the winter.  China is doing a lot to “fix” their pollution problem, but I’m afraid clean air in China is a way off.  I won’t be missing the pollution.

A Bad AQI Day

I seem to be getting a bit long winded here so just a few more things I will miss:

High-speed trains, but not the crowds, especially during a Chinese holiday

My once or twice a week $5 per hour massages

Chinglish/lost in translation

Street Food

The variety of unique fruits and vegetables some I never saw until I came to China/SE Asia

The low cost of most goods and services (I’m sure I will have sticker shock back in the USA)

Cushy work schedule

Baijiu, although a few mornings after a night of baijiu, I’m pretty sure I said I never wanted to see it again.

Hot Pot

The beauty of the country….I have been blessed to have travelled a good deal in my 4 years.  There is a beauty in the culture and the land that will always stay with you.

There are a few more things I won’t miss but aren’t worth mentioning unless you have experienced them and China is way more than those things.

My Massage Shop
Less than $1 for these mandarins

Here’s where I could get weepy.  More than anything, Chinese hospitality is beyond amazing.  Yes, I know Chinese people get a bad wrap in many foreign countries as being rude, loud and pushing their way to the front, etc.  I too have witnessed this, but since living in a country of 1.4 billion people, I have a better understanding of why this is.  I’m not going to defend it, just that I understand.  For the most part, you will find that the Chinese people welcome you with open arms.  Once they get over their initial curiosity you will soon be part of the family.  More than anything, it’s the people I have met along my journey that I will miss the most.  Those crazy kids I spent 2 weeks with in Beijing, Alina, my go-to person in Xiashan, James Allen from Xiashan who took his English name because of LeBron, Summer, my guide in Harbin, Yulia my roommate, Rabbin and his family in Changning, Paul, Skenny, Erwin, Erin, Jon, Sallen, Hety, Doris, CiCi and all the other staff at Champa Flower Kindergarten in Qingdao, my sweet Marlon and his mom in Qingdao, Amy and Harrison in Weifang who shared Christmas with me, Peter, Peter’s cousin and his wife, Phoenix, Alice and too many to name from my life in Dong’e.  I can’t begin to explain how each has made a mark on my heart and soul or begin to mention all the heart hits China will leave me with.  And what about all my students, the 1000’s of kids I have taught.  Those smiling faces will be missed, oh so much!

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”  Maya Angelou

There may not be any cheese in China, but I discovered more than enough wonderful people and things in this country to make up for it.  Thank you, and much love to everyone who has shared my journey.

My Cheese download (1)

Some Chinglish aka Lost in Translation

Oh China, I Will Miss You, But It’s Time to Move On!

Oh China, I Will Miss You, But It’s Time to Move On!

How do you know when it’s time to move to the next phase in your life?  Sometimes you don’t have a choice.  You are forced to make a change, which is how I first ended up moving abroad, living in Paris. Explanation here. Then you return to remnants of your old life and discover you kind of liked that phase you just left.  You find a way to return to life abroad, which is how I ended up living in China. Next thing you know, 5 months has turned into 4 years.  WOW! It’s true, months turn into years and friends turn into family.


My first 5 months started with 2 weeks in Beijing and a “Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore” moment.  China really is “different” from the rest of the world.  How different is China? You can check out my blog post.  After 2 weeks in Beijing, I was into the next phase in Xiashan.  Xiashan is a small rural village considered part of Weifang in Shandong Province.  So small, it isn’t named on a map.  I was in love with my small country community, but being on a student Visa, I was only able to stay 6 months. I would have to return to the states and apply for a new Visa if I wanted to return to life in China.  Although Xiashan had very little in the way of Western amenities and it was an hour and 15-minute bus ride to get to a train station to get to an airport, I really did love living there and would have stayed on.  But, once again the decision to move to the next phase of my life was out of my control.  I did, however, return to the USA and applied for a new Visa and returned to China.  Unfortunately, I could not return to Xiashan because they had to replace me before I was able to return.

My co-workers at Weifang Xiashan Bilingual School

On to phase two of life in China.  I returned briefly to Xiashan as they had kindly let me leave my things in the apartment.  I stayed for a couple weeks and got to meet my replacement which happened to be from a city next to my hometown of Warren, Ohio.  Halfway around the world and my replacement is from Cortland, Ohio.  I packed up, said my tearful goodbyes to my co-workers and boarded a train 9.5 hours south to Changning in Hunan Provence.  Life in Changning……my roommate Yulia was from Moscow and we got along famously.  The biggest change here is I went from teaching grades 1 and 2 to teaching grades 5, 6 and 7.  A slight adjustment in lessons plans and I survived.  I also survived rainy season in Hunan.  From the time I arrived at the end of February until leaving mid-June, I think we were lucky if we had 3 straight days without rain.  I did love the spicy food in Hunan Province, but at the end of the school term, we had both had our fill of Changning and I was ready to move on to a new part of China and hopefully back to primary students.

My Changning Family and Roommate Yulia

August 3, 2016, phase three of my China life found me back in Shandong Province in a large by American standards, not so large by Chinese standards, city of 9 million on the Yellow Sea called Qingdao.  Woohooo, I would be at a kindergarten located right at the seaside.  I was very excited to be moving on to life in Qingdao, China.  Teaching kindergarten, the principal was from the states, the kindergarten was right on the sea, the city had many Western restaurants and supermarkets, life would be good.  I arrived in Qingdao and the school put me up at a hotel until they found accommodations for me. It actually took 6 weeks and I ended up living with the principal and his wife which was awesome.  I started at the school the day after I arrived as the other foreign teacher had gone on holiday.  They had brought in a second teacher (me) because enrollment at the school had increased.  Imagine my surprise when I was informed after 2 weeks that the other teacher had decided not to return.  Hmmmmm, why?  Thank goodness for the helpfulness of the principal and the Chinese teachers. They finally did bring in first Erwin in October and then Erin late November.  Without turning this into a bitch session, the owner of the kindergarten made many promises that were not kept and expected more and more unreasonable duties from the staff.  I didn’t want to hate my job and I was starting to.   Although I would miss my co-workers and the principal, I decided I would not return after Spring Festival.  That is how I ended up in Dong’e.

My Kindergarten in Qingdao Sat Here on the Yellow Sea

Dong’e County, Shandong Province a countywide population of about 400,000 and located on the left or northern bank of the Yellow River.  The county is regionally and nationally renowned for Ejiao, donkey-hide gelatin used in traditional Chinese medicine.  The city of Dong’e is surrounded by many small villages and farmland.  The closest train station is about an hour away in Liaocheng but doesn’t have the high speed or bullet trains.  For high-speed trains and an airport, I travel 2 to 2.5 hours to Jinan, the capital of the Province.

I arrived in Dong’e in February 2017.  Again, I stayed in a hotel while Peter (the person who brought me to Dong’e) and I looked for an apartment.  After about a week or 10 days, I had a room with a view. I was on the 24th floor overlooking a river, which I later found out was actually a lake.  Economic development in the area had cut off a branch of the river and turned it into a lake.  I don’t think Peter expected to have a teacher come to this small community so quickly.  The first month to 6 weeks, I didn’t have a job.  Thankfully, I was still paid.  The time was spent having dinners to meet local community leaders and school administrators, giving demo classes at Training Centers and in the schools.  My first regularly scheduled teaching job was private lessons/tutoring to two 5-year-old girls.  Gradually more students were added to my tutoring and I was teaching 2 days per week in a local kindergarten and 1 afternoon at a primary school.  This still gave me about 2.5 days of free time which I enjoyed.

Beautiful Sunset from My Dong’e Apartment


Lovely Lake Bridge








Then I had my accident on September 7, 2018.  I ended up in the hospital with a broken back that required surgery.  My story is here  This put me out of commission for about 2 months.  When I was well enough to continue teaching, it was only lessons in my home as I was not well enough to spend days at the kindergarten or primary school.  Since November 2018 I have been giving lessons in my home on Saturdays and Sundays.

2 months of which 2 weeks were spent in a hospital bed and then 6 more weeks of minimal “up” time at home, you have a lot of time to think.  I have been in Dong’e for nearly 2.5 years.  Yes, I love my life here.  I have made many friends who treat me like family. But, that simple 3 letter word b.u.t., but I wanted more.  Due to the nature of my injury, I thought about how lucky I was….. I wasn’t paralyzed….or worse.  I thought about the trip to Paris, I had to cancel. Luckily, I was able to reschedule and just went in May.  I thought about my bucket list. I thought about my condo in Warren, Ohio that I haven’t even moved in to.  You get the idea.  Anyway, I asked myself, “Do you want to be in Dong’e this time next year?”.   That answer came fairly easy, as much as I like my life here, no, this time next year I couldn’t picture myself in Dong’e.  Next question, “Do you want to be in China?”.  That was a little more difficult to answer, I didn’t know.

A Few of My Students

For the next several weeks I thought about that question.  I decided that I would leave Dong’e at the end of the school year which is July 2019.  This worked out well. I needed to re-up my Visa by July 20th, which also means I have to leave mainland China to do it.  I want to spend the holidays in Warren.  I haven’t been in the states for the holidays since 2012.


Okay, I have the start of a plan.  Now what to do between leaving Dong’e and being in the states for the holidays?  Holidays meaning Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and the grand re-opening of the Robins Theatre.  After the Robins opening, I would be free to make a long-term commitment to teaching somewhere.   Last time I was in Saigon, I met a young University student.  She has often asked me to come to Vietnam and teach English.  So, upon leaving China, I decided my first stop would be Vietnam and investigate job opportunities.  From Vietnam, Bali is just a hop, skip and a jump.  I had friends in the states who had mentioned joining me in Bali in August.  So, I then decided to head to Bali after Vietnam.  Also, having friends in Bali, I decided to look into an extended stay, meaning teaching/volunteer opportunities.  I will spend one month of R&R after which I found a School for Special Needs students where I will work for 8 weeks.  A few more weeks of doing nothing and I will head back to Vietnam before returning to the states.

Great, but what about next year? I use a website, as a teaching resource.  Sometime last year they added a resource for teaching jobs.  I decided to browse the listings.  Thinking I would return to SE Asia, I mainly browsed those opportunities.  While researching my upcoming trip to Paris, I realized I missed Europe and decided along with SE Asia, to look at opportunities in Europe. After putting in my criteria, a company called English Wizards based in Warsaw kept popping up.  It looked interesting, a young company with hopes to expand outside of Poland, so I contacted them.  Long story short, I have committed to relocating to Poland end of January 2020.

It will be difficult to leave Dong’e, but the answer to the question, “is this where you want to be this time next year?” was easy.  I will miss the friends I have made and my students, but I know it is time to move on.  The decision to leave China not so easy and then the decision to leave Asia/SE Asia a little more difficult. Asking myself many questions, forcing myself to answer truthfully and planning to enjoy time in SE Asia before saying goodbye has made the realization a bit easier.

My “Littles”


It’s Not Easy to Say Goodbye

“It’s a difficult thing, but there are times when moving on with your life starts with a goodbye.” unknown

I am excited to move on to the next phase of my journey.


My Love Affair with Paris! What Are the French Really Like?

My Love Affair with Paris!  What Are the French Really Like?

Anyone who knows me, knows I have somewhat of a love, no, obsession with Paris.  Evidently, as my brother has reminded me, this stems back to when I was a child wearing a beret and probably trying to speak with a French accent.  I somehow always knew I would visit Paris one day and I even dreamed of living there.  It’s true, you never forget your first trip to Paris.

It started young….
Not sorry!











“It was our first evening in Paris.  The night was falling as we entered the metro.  Rain was in the forecast, so I had our umbrella.  We were on our way to a wine taste. A light drizzle met us as we exited the metro station. The sounds of the city and the glow of the streetlamps surrounded us.  As we tried to get our bearings, he spotted a street vendor selling crepes.  Huddled under our umbrella….sharing a warm crepe….Paris in the rain….I was in love.”



10 years later, numerous visits and a brief 6 months living in Paris, I am still in love.

Naturally, when you love something or someone, you tend to defend it/them at all cost.  Before that first trip, I heard, “The Parisians are rude!”, “No one speaks English.”, “The city is filthy, they pee in the street.”, and so on.  I always asked, “How do you know? Have you been?”  To which I often heard, “Well, everyone says so.” My response, “Who is everyone?”  So, it began, always defending my beloved Paris.

Having several years of high school and college French I figured, no problem.  My first trip to Paris was before translation apps were popular so I had to depend on my minimal, poorly spoken French and an English/French dictionary.  While it was true, that few people seemed to speak English, we managed.  Were the people rude?  Was it filthy?  I honestly couldn’t tell you.  It was my first visit, passing through for a few short days on our way to Venice.  I didn’t care, I was in Paris, the city of my dreams and I was in love.

3 more trips after this one, including one to celebrate my 50th birthday with my girlfriend, Teri, and our significant others and one for a job interview, again with Teri.  I knew the next time I packed my bags to come to Paris, it would be long term.  Now, the others on the 25th anniversary of my 25th year, felt that some of these stereotypes were true, the Parisians were rude, no one speaks English and the city was dirty.  True or not, I didn’t care, it was Paris in autumn.   My most recent visit to Paris (spring 2019), had Teri beginning to change her view and my cousins, their first time, understanding my love affair with La Ville Lumiere, the City of Light.  Named, both, because of its leading role during the Age of Enlightenment and more literally, being one of the first big European cities to use gas street lighting on a large scale.

La Ville Lumiere….The City of Light

So, why do many Americans assume the French are rude?

Finally fulfilling my dream, I moved to Paris in August of 2014.  It’s very different when you live in a city versus being a tourist.  Let me add that I had come to live in Paris for a job teaching English and I had enrolled at the University to study French.  Long story short, my student visa was denied (no reason given), so, therefore, I couldn’t study or have a job.  I made the choice to move to Paris and just live the café life.  For the next 6 months, I wandered Paris, travelled to the countryside, went to Germany, Switzerland,  the Netherlands, Poland and Ireland. 6 months to wander, I was deeper in love.

Daily life in Paris was quite different from life in Warren, Ohio.  I had no car to jump into and take off on a whim.  I had my cozy little flat, the first in the 19th with a view of the Eiffel Tower from one window and Sacre Coeur from another and my second in the 18th, the heart of Montmartre.  Without a job, it was life on a budget, which basically meant I wasn’t taking taxis to get around. I was depending on my 2 feet or the metro. I really felt like a Parisian when I got my Navigo card complete with photo.  This was a card I renewed monthly for unlimited travel on public transportation.  I wasn’t dining daily at fabulous restaurants but cooking in my home.  This meant daily trips to the local market, the boucherie, the boulangerie or the patisserie and only purchasing what I could carry.  I rarely went to a “supermarket” as a large fresh market for fruits and veggies was one metro stop away.  I eventually bought a little trolley that enabled me to pick up a few more items in one trip.  Other than my landlord (in the 19th) whose window I could look into from mine and who on occasion invited me over for a glass of champagne to enjoy the sunset, I knew no one.

So, are the Parisians rude?  One thing I learned (even before living in Paris), a simple bonjour madame/monsieur, when entering a café, a shop, a boucherie, etc., is necessary and will make life a bit easier.  Don’t forget a merci, au revoir (thank you, goodbye) or the less formal and if you are familiar with the person a merci, a bientot (thank you, see you soon) when leaving.  I began to find my favorite shops and before long, even though as soon as I spoke everyone knew I was American, I was greeted with a warm smile. The meat cutter at my boucherie even became familiar with my favorite cuts of meat and was soon making recommendations.  Other than the faces at my local shops, I still didn’t really know anyone, but not because people were unfriendly.  This was because I spent my first months wandering all over the city, taking it all in.  On weekends, I could travel outside of Paris, but still within Ile de France, with my Navigo card and visited small towns and villages.  I was a kid in a candy store and I had to taste it all.  Soon my time in the 19th was coming to an end.  My landlord had told me he needed the flat for family that was coming.

I found a flat in the 18th, in the heart of Montmartre, which was my real love.  Also, by this time, I had accumulated some “stuff”; a French press, herbs I was growing in my kitchen, a pasta maker, etc.  “Stuff” (too much) I didn’t want to leave behind that had to accompany me on my move.  How to move?  I didn’t know anyone well enough to ask for help, so I moved over the course of a couple days by metro and finally taking the last load by taxi.  Settled, in my favorite area of the city, I began a day to day life that was more routine.  Many days I never left Montmartre.  I again found all my favorite shops in the neighborhood and was soon being greeted as if they knew me.  I was also stopping in the mornings at the same café for coffee and in the evenings for a glass of wine and an occasional meal.

With Julie in Bali. After a bottle of wine, we took a dip in the decorative pool…clothes and all.

I became friends with Julie, one of the servers and would hang out chatting with her.  I met Samy, who worked at La Cigale and Freddy, who took me on outings to visit his friends in the countryside.  Several others, I would meet for coffee, wine, a meal or just café hopping and strolling around Montmartre.  Some spoke good English, some, not so much. My French was improving. I even had a companion I would meet at a café for French lessons, in exchange for English lessons.   Some, I lost contact after I returned to the states.




Freddy at Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole.

Some, like Freddy, from Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole (a great restaurant near Notre Dame), I still visit when in Paris.  My dear friend Julie moved to Bali and is the reason I first went there.  She said I must come to visit her, so I did.  Soon, I will be moving to Bali for a 3.5-month stay and teaching experience.


But it was during these outings I learned a thing or two that fed into the “Parisians are rude” attitude.  First, I‘ve already addressed that a simple bonjour madame/monsieur is an ice breaker.  It helped me then and after my most recent trip, I can honestly say, and I think Teri and my cousins would agree after the initial bonjour, many people switched to English.  Many more than in past visits.  Next, French waiters probably have the worst reputation for being rude.  French waiters are considered professionals and don’t work for tips. That being said, they don’t buy into the American thought of the customer is always right. They don’t have a need to cater to your every whim because they aren’t working for tips.  On the flip side of that coin, they aren’t working for tips so there isn’t the need to quickly turn over tables.  You can sit for 30 minutes or 3 hours.  They get paid the same wage no matter.  Do also greet them with a smile and bonjour.  Trust me, hearing you speak that one simple word, they will know you speak little or no French.  Nearly every waiter we encountered on my most recent trip, when treated with respect (that initial bonjour) switched over to English and was quite charming.  If it appears, I am speaking of French servers in the male gender, it is because most servers in Paris are men. I can only recall one female server at Le Relais de la Butte in Montmartre (conveniently located across from our hotel) being female and she was equally friendly.

The waiter at La Mere Catherine, he kept bringing me little dishes of olives because he knew I liked them.


A rose’ and the olives

The menu….as Americans, we often want to switch up the menu…exchange this for that, steamed not fried, Italian or ranch, dressing on the side….not only in Paris but all over Europe, this is a no-no and causes the rest of the world to view Americans as “difficult”.  The dish comes as it is.  Which reminds me of a second female server who thought Teri was asking to substitute an item for another when in fact she was asking for an additional item as a side.  This did give the server a little attitude. However, by the end of the meal, she was smiling and all was right with the world.

You may think your waiter is ignoring you, when in fact he is respecting your privacy.  He won’t constantly be over your shoulder asking if you need anything or is everything alright.  Once he delivers your food, he will leave you alone to enjoy your company and your dining experience.  They expect you to leisurely linger over your meal.  Enjoy each bite and each sip….relaxing with your family and friends.  If you need something, make eye contact and politely signal them over to your table.  When you are finished with your meal, put your knife and fork together across your plate.  This tells your waiter he can clear the table.  Now, he will ask if you would like dessert or coffee. If you decline, this doesn’t mean he is going to bring your bill. They will leave you to relax and socialize, even if the restaurant is full.  Teri even commented about feeling guilty taking so much time.  We as Americans aren’t programmed to linger and enjoy our meals and time with others.  It is one of the things I love about the European lifestyle.   When you are ready to leave, make eye contact, make the scribble motion or say l’addition s’il vous plait (the bill please).

I hope this explains the misconception of rude waiters, although, as in every culture I’m sure there are some who are rude.

Street Art








Although I never thought Paris was filthy, it is cleaner than I have ever seen it.  Street art/graffiti is everywhere, but it is an accepted practice.  I’ve only once witnessed anyone peeing in the streets.  Although I will tell you, in some of the older buildings, there are still squatty potties, albeit few, they do exist.  I’m not sure how, but I fall more in love with Paris every time I visit, and my heart is definitely in Montmartre.  Next year, I will be moving to Poland. I am looking forward to once again embracing the European way of life and continuing the adventures of “Down the Rabbit Hole”.



“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”  Ernest Hemingway, “A Moveable Feast”

With Teri on the steps of Sacre Coeur from our most recent of many trips to Paris.