Before the trip, I was wondering whether France, and England, would feel different. I've been to some places that are familiar in enough ways that they don't really feel very different from my usual environment. And I've been to other places that are unique in a lot of ways and it creates a jarring feeling of being in a wholly new place.
Often the differences that create this feeling are pretty simple, like the ways roadways are painted or how signs are arranged. It can also be more complex, reflecting deeper cultural or socioeconomic differences.
For instance, Montego Bay, Jamaica was really different. First, I don't think they even have road signs or lane painting. And the poverty there is really remarkable, with people tossing garbage into streams and living in shanties. On the other hand, Vancouver is a lot like being in Seattle, which is a lot like being in Chicago or Providence or Boston, etc.
So, I wondered about France and England. They're western countries, after all, but they're European countries, too. And, old ones, at that.
My first impression is that Paris does not feel that different. Quin even remarked today that it didn't seem that different.
Don't get me wrong--this is not to say it is not beautiful, wonderful, enjoyable, etc. And the sights--the attractions--are unparalleled. It's just that the French seem to organize their everyday lives more or less the same way we do. They may be more likely to go to cafes, but they're the same sorts of cafes you might see in a major American city.
The one thing that stood out was the way the French dress--and one thing in particular: almost all the men wear pants even when it's 80 degrees. Surely, I looked like a tourist in shorts and flip-flops. But, I was a comfortable tourist!