Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Friday 18 June 2010

Freakishly pale on the Mediterranean

Today, I am going to go downtown to buy some sunblock for my face and maybe a little bit of make-up that I can wear out for dinner. This make-up mission, however, has been attempted before and has so far been unsuccessful. Superficially, it seems, I'm too white for the South of France -- so much so that the stores don't even try to sell make-up that would blend in on my freakishly pale face.

I know this only an item on a shopping list, and it's extremely superficial, but it's also an anthropologically interesting detail.

Buying make-up in Nice, I've recently discovered, will be more difficult for me because of my lack of sun worship -- regardless of whatever colour I'm starting with. The make-up here is offered in a range like at home, only each one seems darkened a little to match a more summery skin tone. This is an odd adjustment for me, having come from a land of snow (well, for part of the year), where we spend so much of our time tanless. Some people tan in Canada, but the tan is considered a tan, never the state of normal. When I go down near the sea here (walking, with a hat, sunglasses and sunblock on), I can even tell that I stand out.

But, the tanlessness (which isn't such a big deal) isn't the only way we Canadians can be identified. I've also noticed that the people doing these things always turn out to be from my country:

-We'll help anyone holding a map, regardless of whether we know where we are at the time.
-We enter stranger's conversations, even if we know the stranger thinks that's unusual.
-Our women carry our own luggage. We're competitive and we like to show that we're strong or can look after ourselves.
-We wear gym clothes not only at the gym, but when we're doing something we consider exercise (which could just be walking around).
-Sometimes we're a bit loud -- but that's mostly when we're being funny.

(This is just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are many more details that could be added to the list.)

Mostly, I guess I'd say a Canadians in the South of France can be easily picked out because we protect ourselves from the sun, but our barrier against strangers is very, very low.

It's funny how you can learn so much more about your country when you're not in it.


  1. Very interesting observations, especially the one re our barrier against strangers...

    I definitely would be one of those who hide from the sun!


  2. Thanks for your comment on my blog! Some friends of mine are having a Canada Day party on the beach and it would be great if you could join us. You can recognize me by my pale skin! Send me an e-mail if you would like more details.

  3. Love your blog! I lived in Nice for a year and I miss it.

    Makeup is SUPER expensive in France from what I recall. I used to buy face powder from the M.A.C. in the zone pietonne.